Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Hawaii: Ewa Villages Redevelopment (Honolulu)
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The Council has received a request from the City and County of Honolulu (City) to demolish 15 residences in Varona Village under the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) executed in 1995 between the Farmer's Home Administration (FHA), the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and the Council.
Varona Village is one of three communities created by the Ewa Plantation Company, which operated a successful sugar plantation on the island of Oahu from approximately 1880-1995. Varona Village, Tenney Village, and Renton Village were constructed between 1907 and 1957 and provided more than 1,200 residential units for workers. Each of the villages is considered an eligible National Register district.
In anticipation of the expiration of the plantation's land lease and reversion of the land to the City, the City prepared a Master Plan for the revitalization of Ewa Villages. The plan called for the rehabilitation of Renton, Tenney, and Varona Villages as affordable housing and development of the adjacent land with market rate housing to help finance the proposed rehabilitation. Important to the project's viability, FHA made mortgage loans available to individual buyers in the Ewa Villages through the City's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
FHA consulted with the Council, the SHPO, the City, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Historic Hawaii Foundation to develop an MOA for the plan, and identified 279 historic residential units for rehabilitation: 182 in Tenney, 70 in Varona, and 27 in Renton.
Unfortunately, the master plan envisioned three years ago has not been realized. Due to a depressed local economy, the market rate housing intended to support rehabilitation of the villages was never developed. As a result, the City can no longer afford to manage the property, and there has been noticeable deterioration.
Under the terms of the MOA, the City carried out the demolition of four properties in 1995, and reported the destruction of another by fire in 1997, all located in Tenney Village. The SHPO has concurred with the City's current proposal to demolish 15 buildings in Varona Village. The Council, however, has objected based on the absence of clear evidence that preservation of these units is infeasible.
Although only four years old, the effectiveness of the MOA for this project has been challenged by several developments, most notably the dramatic change in economic conditions. Complicating resolution of this issue are changes involving the participants in the MOA. In June 1998, the DHCD notified the Council that it was being dissolved as a unit of city government.
Also, as part of a reorganization of the Department of Agriculture, FHA is now known as the Rural Development Administration (RDA). While FHA funds have been used in the project, it is unclear whether further funding is proposed, and it has been difficult to obtain clarification on this point from RDA.
The City Manager's Office in Honolulu has requested a meeting among the parties of the MOA to discuss possible changes to the agreement and the ultimate fate of the 15 units in Varona Village slated for demolition.
Staff contact: Jane Crisler
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