HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly two years after Foodland closed its Koko Marina location, Hawaii Kai residents turned out in huge numbers Thursday night to hear plans that could move the supermarket back into the neighborhood.
Landowner Kamehameha Schools is proposing to transform a five-acre plot of land across of Maunalua Bay, also known as the 'Great Lawn,' into the Kuapa Village, a multi-use property that would also include a Foodland grocery store.
"It is a beautiful open space and we also value open space, but it's not used right now and we're hoping that we can incorporate open space, but make it a place that is accessible for the community," said Susan Todani, director of development and planning for Kamehameha Schools.
Foodland closed its Koko Marina location in July 2011 after it was unable to negotiate a new lease. Roger Wall, Foodland's executive vice president, thinks residents would welcome the store's return to the community.
"We hear on almost a weekly, if not daily basis, from our former customers that they want us back in Hawaii Kai," Wall said. "They want a local grocery option and they want Foodland."
The empty lawn is also a tsunami inundation zone and Representative Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) organized Thursday's meeting in response to community members who want to keep it that way.
"It's sort of the signature of that you've arrived in Hawaii Kai," Ward said. "It's never been developed since Kaiser actually put it there and my initial reaction was that I didn't believe it when they said, 'oh yeah, they are talking about this.' This has been rumored for probably a decade, but very heavily serious rumors for the last two years."
Kamehameha Schools says plans are still in the early stages of a four-year process and it will continue to seek community input.
Even from those who seem to have already made up their mind.
"People know me as pro-business, pro-development, but you can't do that at the expense of the last open space," said State Sen. Sam Slom (R-Hawaii Kai, Kahala), whose comments at the meeting were met with applause from dozens of residents. "This should be open, wild, nature space for all of us to enjoy because we have so little of it."