Rice Street renovations ready

LIHUE — The plan calls for turn lanes, bike lanes and pedestrian lanes.

Long term, it also calls for landscaped medians to give Rice Street in Lihue a more grassy flair and parking lots that double as pocket parks during evening hours.

The blueprints for a redone Rice Street were unveiled Monday during the opening gathering in a week’s worth of presentations on the street that’s about to undergo a transformation.

“The goal for the Rice Street plan is to revitalize the area,” said Marie Williams of the county Planning Department. “Not just here, but throughout the street. We want to bring excitement back into the area.”

Rice Street Week 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.

Some who saw the plans said they were all for it.

“We like the plan,” said Larry Feinstein of the Kauai Beer Company, who happened to craft a special brew, the Rice Street Rye, in honor of the event. “Anything to bring life back to this area is good and we support it.”

Lee Steinmetz of the County Planning Department said the renderings and aerial photos of Rice Street demonstrate the scope of work that will take some time to finalize in area that stretches roughly from The Lihue Civic Center to Hoolako Street.

“The first are the conceptual plans of what can be done with striping, or putting paint to the asphalt,” Steinmetz said, of the first phase that will feature bike lanes and pedestrian lanes and a center turn lane for cars. “This work can start soon, perhaps in the spring of 2015, and be completed before the fiscal year ends.”

He said the special painting and re-striping are experimental and will be monitored for adjustment as the plans become reality.

Down the line, the plan calls for designated parking spots that can be turned into pocket parks with some plants that people can carry out to mark off the area.

“The second phase involves more money and will take time,” Steinmetz said. “One of the features in this phase is the parklet, a miniature park where various activities can take place to bring excitement. These parklets are created from existing on-street parking during the times when parking is not at a premium, or when the no-parking rules end.”

Steinmetz said the public is invited to a more formal presentation of the Rice Street plans during two meetings this week. The first is from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Ha Coffee Bar, and the second is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lihue Civic Center, Moikeha Building, Rooms 2A and 2B.

People are also invited to walking tours where they will have the opportunity to analyze how Rice Street functions for different users, discuss issues and share concerns. Walks are scheduled for Tuesday morning 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and meet at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

The plans will also be on display through Dec. 5 at the Ha Coffee Bar, the Kauai Beer Company, the Lihue Civic Center, and the Lihue Public Library. In addition to the proposed changes, people are also able to write in their comments.

“We spent some time going door-to-door to businesses along Rice Street,” said Pat Griffith of the Lihue Business Association. “People have been very good about offering their input, remembering what was good and what can be changed for the better. This should be helpful in moving the plans forward.”

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