Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Hawaii: Ewa Villages Redevelopment (Honolulu)
On February 9, 1999, Council staff toured Ewa Villages with representatives from the Ewa Villages Nonprofit Development Corporation (EVNDC), the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and members of the Ewa community to assess the progress of the ongoing revitalization effort.
House in Varona Village, Ewa Plantation, Oahu, Hawaii, in need of stabilization.
Those who participated in the tour also met with representatives from the City of Honolulu, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Historic Hawaii Foundation to discuss options for improving the administrative relationship between the EVNDC and the city and, ultimately, for bringing the Ewa redevelopment efforts to a successful conclusion.
Towards that end, the city proposed altering its development agreement with EVNDC to shift greater responsibility for the sales and marketing of the rehabilitated historic homes to the EVNDC, an authority EVNDC had long sought. The Council supported this proposal in a March 1999 letter to the city.
The Council also expressed concern, however, over the city’s expanded plans for demolition in Varona Village: all remaining houses in the village would be razed under the current proposal. Rather than agree to such wholesale demolition, the Council proposed that the city, EVNDC, and the Hawaii SHPO form an inspection team to prepare a condition assessment of each house in Varona. The team would determine on a case-by-case basis if rehabilitation was a viable option. If rehabilitation on-site was not feasible, the team would also consider whether the house could be relocated to vacant sites in nearby Renton and Tenney Villages.
In addition, the Council requested that the city examine possible cost-saving measures for making infrastructure improvements in Varona that would allow for adequate facilities while reducing costs to a minimum. The Council suggested that the city formulate a proposal to amend the 1995 MOA for the revitalization of Ewa Villages and is awaiting a response from the city.
The Council initially received a request from the 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 (FmHA), the Hawaii SHPO, and the Council. Verona Village is one of three communities created by the Ewa Plantation Company, which operated a sugar plantation on the island of Oahu from approximately 1880-1995. Varona, Tenney, and Renton Villages were constructed between 1907 and 1957 and provided more than 1,200 residential units for workers. Each village 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 with the adjacent land developed with market rate housing to help finance the rehabilitation. Important to the project’s viability, FmHA made mortgage loans available to individual buyers in the Ewa Villages through the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
FmHA 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.
Unfortunately, the master plan developed 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. The Hawaii SHPO concurred with the city’s proposal to demolish 15 buildings in Varona Village. The Council, however, 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, FmHA is now known as the Rural Development Administration (RDA).
While limited RDA funds continue to be used in the project, the majority of Federal assistance now comes from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, thus making the City the delegated “Federal agency” for Section 106 purposes. This raises interesting issues regarding management of historic properties. The use of CDBG dollars to purchase or demolish city-owned historic properties results in expectations regarding planning for such structures that are similar to those for property-managing Federal agencies. However, local political and economic realities mean that such planning is often played out in a very different context.
Staff contact: Jane Crisler
January 1999 report on this case
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