LIHUE — County officials hope businesses will continue the Rice Street renaissance legacy they started.
“We’re shifting this effort to be led by businesses and property owners, as opposed to the county,” said Lee Steinmetz, county transportation director.
On Thursday, Steinmetz gave an update of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grant, projects to about 20 people who attended the Lihue Business Association meeting.
“We’re doing a design build project, which means we’re doing drawings to about 30 percent. Then there will be a design build contractor who will be hired to complete the design and build it,” Steinmetz said.
The county’s portion of the drawings and environmental studies have to be done by June 30, he added.
“We’re almost done with that. Our final approvals are with the Federal Highway Administration, and we’re just waiting for them to approve what we’ve gone though,” he said.
The county is ahead of schedule, Steinmetz said.
After plans are completed, the county will bid out for a contractor. Construction is slated to begin by end of 2018 or early 2019.
In 2015, Kauai County received the $13.8 million grant to revitalize Lihue Town Core.
The Kauai County Council approved the TIGER grant last year. Projects include condensing the four-lane traffic into three lanes, creating bicycle lanes on Rice and Hoolako streets, and limiting parking between Haleko Road and Hardy Street to two hours.
The project will create about 90 new parking spaces, Steinmetz said.
During the meeting, Lihue resident, Serge Marcil, asked what was going to happen to the Salvation Army and old dealership buildings on Rice Street.
“Will there be incentives to bring businesses to Rice Street?” he asked.
While there are tax breaks for people to offer affordable housing on the island, there’s no concrete plans specifically for Rice Street, Steinmetz said.
Wally Rezentes, managing director, said the new Rice Street brand is incentive enough.
“It’s the impetus for property owners to start developing,” he said.
Steinmetz also discussed the Rice Street logo created by local graphic artist, Kurt Osaki. The inspiration for the logo was to promote Rice Street as business district, Steinmetz said.
“It’s a tool that can be used to unify how people think about the area and a tool that can be used for people to really communicate the essence of a place,” he said.
For Rice Street, the chosen logo is “In the heart of Kauai” and represents the history of Lihue as a plantation town.
The logo is free to business owners, Steinmetz said.
The county hopes to incorporate the logo on signs around Rice Street, he added.
The idea for the Rice Street logo was being tossed around before Kauai received the TIGER grant, said Pat Griffin, president of LBA.
“One of the goals of the Rice Street logo and branding is to give Rice Street business owners the opportunity to coalesce together as a revitalizing technique,” she said.
Plans to upgrade Kalena Park were also discussed Thursday morning.
The plans, which include fixing up the basketball court and playground, adding extra sitting areas and installing an exercise circuit, were proposed by Kauai Cares, the nonprofit group started by Kauai Beer Company.
KBC representatives want to incorporate those plans into the overall effort to improve Rice Street, said Larry Feinstein, Kauai Cares board member.
Upgrading Kalena Park would be a private/public venture, he said.
“We need to have a meeting of the county stakeholders. This is not a private effort. This is not some idea to promote the Kauai Beer Company,” he said. “When I see something like this, I see tremendous opportunity for corporate sponsorship and patrons of the park. I think the way for an idea like this to succeed is for it to be supported by the private sector with the blessing from the county.”
Lenny Rapozo, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said he supports the idea.
“It’s a well-used park. The basketball court was there before I was born,” he said. “This will be a true partnership in determining what we want to do in terms of upgrades.”
Sam Pratt, president of Niu Pia Land Company, spoke in favor of the Kalena Park renovation.
“I think this a great one. It’s been there before my time, and there it is, just waiting for some attention,” he said. “It is worthy of a revitalization.”