Rice Street topic of meetings, walking audits this week

LIHUE — Lance Miyao, an employee at Punua Insurance, said there is nothing to walk to on Rice Street.

He was not alone, as people from other businesses located on Rice Street aired their frustration about not having enough places nearby at which to eat or shop.

“I can’t go next door every day,” said Nadine Tamayose, manager of Wisteria Lane Flooring, which is located next to Garden Island Barbecue. “Everything along Rice Street is sit-down dining. We can’t eat plate lunches every day. We need a place for quick salads and other take-and-go foods.”

The public is invited to share ideas on what improvements to Rice Street could better accommodate all users during Rice Street Week, which launches today.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. will host a Walk Down Rice Street from 4:30 p.m., starting at the Lihue Civic Center and ending at Kauai Beer Co., where he will unveil proposed plans for Rice Street.

Walking audits are scheduled for Tuesday from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., and Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., during which people will have the opportunity to analyze how Rice Street functions for different users, discuss issues and share concerns. Walkers should wear bright clothes for safety reasons.

The future of Rice Street also will be discussed during two meetings on Wednesday from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Ha Coffee Shop.

Another informational meeting will be held Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lihue Civic Center, Moikeha Building, Rooms 2A and 2B where the Planning Commission meets.

“Rice Street is pretty walk-able, compared to Chicago,” said Linda and Rory Trausch, residents of Kalapaki Villas who moved to Kauai from Chicago in September. “We walk to the Food Truck Thursdays at the Kauai Beer Co., and other than Garden Island Barbecue, there’s pretty much no place else to go.”

Rory Trausch, a retired police officer, said traffic appears to flow well on Rice Street, but he thinks more small businesses need to open and be supported by the community to encourage walking.

“They need more, and better, crosswalks,” said Marleen Duarte of Kalaheo who works at the Office of Economic Development. “I’m beginning to see more and more people starting to walk along Rice Street, but how do they cross? They need crosswalks, and the on-street parking should be eliminated because it only confuses motorists.”

Tamayose said when Dairy Queen was in operation on Rice Street, it offered counter service for fast food as well as sit-down dining.

“My husband and I used to go there — a lot,” Tamayose said. “You could get quick food to go, or sit down an enjoy your meal.”

There are some dining options, but not enough, agreed Susan Perreira and Lisa Koga, both employees at Punua Insurance who has occupied its Rice Street frontage since 1982.

“Yes, we have Ha Coffee,” Tamayose said. “But we need a Starbucks. People will come. You can have Starbucks side by side, and people will still patronize both.”

People who cannot participate in the walks or attend the meetings can view the proposed plans and provide input from Tuesday through Dec. 5 at Kauai Beer Co., Ha Coffee Bar, the Lihue Civic Center and the Lihue Public Library during operating hours.

The Rice Street Week and Walk is a public-private partnership between the County of Kauai, Get Fit Kauai, the Lihue Business Association, the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and Lihue businesses who are hosting events or providing venues where the proposed Rice Street plans can be seen.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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