LIHUE — Downtown Lihue businesses and associations on Tuesday urged Kauai County’s Budget and Finance Committee to move forward with plans to use $2 million in local matching funds to support $13 million in federal transportation grants to revitalize the city’s core.
Several business owners, along with Lihue Business Association President Pat Griffin, told the committee now is the time to restore the city center.
“Downtown Lihue has suffered a steep decline in the past generation,” Griffin said. “This grant’s focus is on generating recovery.”
As proposed, the county’s 2017 budget includes $2 million local match to a $13 million Transportation Investment Generating Recovery (TIGER) grant. The funding could cover projects such as pedestrian and bike lanes, improvements to Rice Street, the conversion of Eiwa Street to a transit hub and construction of new sidewalks, officials said.
Griffin said the LBA will “assist in any way we can to make these funds pay huge dividends for the people of Kauai in its future.”
“Lihue is aptly called the Heart of Kauai,” she wrote in a letter of support for the grant application. “It is the county seat and home to the island’s airport, primary harbor, only institute of higher education, major hospital and commercial center and a vital part of our economy,” she said.
Nearly a dozen downtown advocates said they supported the revitalization efforts that would be made possible by the TIGER funding and local $2 million match.
“Kauai Path’s board of directors strongly urges the Kauai County Council to approve the investment of approximately $2 million in county funds to leverage $13 million in federal transportation (TIGER) funding,” said Tommy Noyes, executive director of Kauai Path Inc.
The town is forecast to continue to grow more rapidly in the next 20 years than any other district on the island.
“That growth will bring jobs, as well as increase the need for additional goods, services, and especially housing in and through the area,” Griffin said.
She added, “We encourage (committee) to vote unreservedly to fund this project, not to fall into the trap of judging it as an exclusive boon only to one segment of the community … instead, to judge it as a remarkable opportunity and a jumping off point for many other chances to assist neighborhoods throughout Kauai.”
Brenda Reshaw of Richo Business Solutions on Rice Street said her business continues to grow in the town’s mid-section and asked that the $2 million local match be approved.
“I’m here to provide my support,” she said.
Also supporting the local $2 million in TIGER grant funding was Larry Feinstein of Kauai Beer Company.
“We never planned on being in the center of downtown discussions, but we are,” Feinstein said.
Unless the Budget and Finance Committee removes the local match from the existing spending plan, it will be included in the county’s 2017 budget, which will be adopted by the County Council later this summer, committee member Arryl Kaneshiro said.