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Honolulu awaits 'heritage area' status

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Honolulu awaits 'heritage area' status

Source: honolulu advertiser


Organizations and businesses on a swath of land from Kalihi to Kaka'ako would be eligible for millions in federal and private grants for property improvements if a special federal "heritage area" designation is approved.

The grants could be used for everything from bro-chures on the history of a property to major renovations on historic buildings.

The "heritage area" designation, which must be approved by Congress, would be one of 37 in the nation and only the third in the West.

"We need to honor our history and our heritage," said Mona Abadir, president of the Hawai'i Capital Cultural District board of directors, the nonprofit formed to seek the designation. "By doing that, we create all these other opportunities, like generating economic growth ... and enhancing arts and culture education and participation."

Unlike some other heritage areas, the Hawai'i Capital Cultural District does not have one central theme. But officials say that's what makes it unique.

"The history of Honolulu is really a rich history, and this is about rethinking Honolulu as a place of heritage," said Bill Chapman, chief author of the district report and an American studies professor at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.

Officials say the designation would likely mean an annual stream of federal and private funds for historic preservation, cultural awareness and education projects in the district.

The cap on National Park Service funds for heritage areas is now set at $10 million over 10 to 15 years. Oftentimes, those funds arematched by private donors and states.

In 2004, the latest year for which data was compiled, the then-27 heritage areas across the nation received about $45 million from the park service. Other private and public grants brought the total funding to $84 million. Studies show the designation also increased tourism, though the extent of growth in the sector varied widely.

"It's about more than the money," added Lorraine Lunow-Luke, coordinator for the capital cultural district and the nonprofit's only paid staff member.

"It's about the recognition of Hawai'i in terms of the value of our history."

As part of the approval process, a study was conducted to map out the area's historical transformation

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