For the Children's Discovery Center, the hits just keep coming

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Children's Discovery Center in Kakaako is facing an uncertain future.

Visitors have been turned off by nearby homeless encampments. And now, the closing of surrounding parks are having an impact.

The Children's Discovery Center was supposed to be the anchor of a revitalized Kakaako community. Today, you can't even get to the front door.

Access to the children's museum has been difficult since the Hawaii Community Development Authority closed Kakaako Waterfront Park more than a month ago to repair damage caused by homeless campers.

"I do worry about the fact that we're cut off from our front entrance," said Loretta Yajima, chairwoman and chief executive of the center. "There's no parking around the center. We've lost the use of the park. And totally for good reasons."

It's just the latest in a series of challenges for the museum.

The Children's Discovery Center used to have 120,000 visitors a year. But that's dropped more 30 percent since the homeless moved in.

And its gotten worse.

"There were so many people who said, we love the center and we really, really appreciated being able to come, but we're not going to come back until this mess is cleared up," Yajima said.

Kakaako Waterfront Park was vital to the center's location, with many outside activities.

But now its closed indefinitely while the state cleans up the mess.

"When will the park be open, and how will we be able to resume our operations here? I don't think anyone knows," Yajima said.

The center has been in Kakaako since 1998, after a request from then-Gov. John Waihee:

"Come down and help us transform Kakaako into a place for our community. I said 'done,'" Yajima said.

The center is now struggling because of the falling attendance. The private non-profit doesn't receive any federal, state or city funds.

Yajima says it would be close to impossible to move like it did 19 years ago.

"I had to raise $15 million to do that. And today of course it would be triple that amount," Yajima said. "So a move is just not feasible for us at this time. But I don't know how feasible it is for us to stay put either, and for how long."

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