Residents of former plantation village fed up with latest redevelopment delay

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

It's a new year, but nothing has changed for residents in a neglected former plantation community. In early 2017, Varona Village residents had renewed hope for a long-awaited redevelopment plan. The city finally issued a request for proposals, but then the deadline was pushed back three times and the year ended with another disappointing delay.

EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "It's not promising because of all of these delays. It's almost kind of a repeat of the many, many, many years it was happening," said resident Mike Esquibil. "I'm just afraid that history is going to repeat itself and we'll be forgotten again."

The selection was supposed to be done by December 29. A city spokesman said that was a target date assuming that offers would not require further clarification or discussion.

"I'm mad, but it's like I don't have peace of mind," said resident Crescencia Malate.

The city had promised to rehabilitate the Varona Village homes more than 20 years ago and sell them to plantation families at affordable prices.

"I don't know if they're going to follow what they said before," said resident Lucena Tapauan.

Several of the plantation workers and their spouses have died while waiting for the city to follow through on its commitment.

"These are good people, hard-working people, and I think they deserve a chance before they pass away, before it's too late," said Rebecca Blue, who just moved back to Varona Village to take care of her elderly parents.

The residents have also noticed outsiders coming into the neighborhood, dumping trash and causing problems.

"It's actually a safety issue as well. More recently, they did put up some lights, but it's more we're in a limbo. The community is in a limbo as to what's going to happen," said former resident Agnes Malate.

Residents hope 2018 will finally be the year that they're able to preserve this part of Hawaii's rich plantation history.

"The residents of Varona Village have been given one excuse after another by the City. This is totally unacceptable," said Honolulu City Council Chair Ron Menor in a statement.

Menor is now urging the city to pick a developer by the end of January. Hawaii News Now checked with the city, but did not receive a response with a new selection date.