Plantation roots sprouts community of dreams

Nov 18, 2017 | PC Community

Plantation roots run deep, thicken and thrive amongst lessons of life and the will to survive and prosper. Love for family, neighbors and for those whose legacies are remembered and honored for making a difference, rise together, layer upon layer, contributing to the foundation of the success of a community that bonds the past, present, and future generations.

Growing up on a plantation in Hilo, aio Chairman and President, Duane Kurisu defines plantation roots and the philosophy to look out for, and take care of one another. He is considered one of the most successful business owners in Hawaii today and shares his success with his heart and a helping hand.

I have worked for Mr. Kurisu in many different capacities for the past 17 years and have personally experienced and have been on the receiving end of his generosity for which I am truly grateful. I was given the opportunity recently to take a tour around the construction site for Mr. Kurisu’s latest project, Kahauiki Village.  When completed, Kahauiki Village will be home to over 629 homeless adults and children that will occupy 150 one and two bedroom units on a parcel of land located off of Nimitz Highway in Kalihi. The first group of homes will be ready for occupancy in late December.

“This Kahauiki Village community is based upon like many of my generation who grew up on a plantation,” said Kurisu. “The sugar factory which was an economic driver had houses built around it with schools. In this case, our economic driver is United Laundry. Owner Vicky Cayetano said she would hire adults who want to work. At the same time, we’ve had other businesses in the area that have stepped forward and said they will hire and train the adults to work here. Like a plantation town, you have an economic driver.”

Kahauiki Village’s plantation style community concept will include the first photovoltaic system in the world that powers an entire community.

“Tesla says we are the first photovoltaic system that will power an entire community,” Kurisu said. “The first in the world. It’s powering the street lights, the child care center, pre-school, the grinders for our sewer system, the houses, the convenient store, the laundry mat. It was designed and created here in Hawaii. There’s artificial intelligence involved here. With battery storage, the system needs to learn what the usage of the power is for areas like the pre-school at a certain time. Also, grinder pumps and certain street lights so they can manage the power and store it. Tesla provides the batteries, photonworks is the contractor, and the engineers were from Ensynergy, They’re from right here in town. All local companies. As a part of the rent the tenants will pay, we wanted to have control of power.  So, with having our own energy system we can control the power and power in the future, rather than being succeptable to the price of oil.”

Kahauiki Village will also include a Sub Police Station, two community gardens, fruit trees, and a future farmers market. The Institute for Human Services will occupy an office on the property and be responsible for filtering through the applications and managing the renters.  IHS will select the families coming through different transition centers. They will be there to interface and handle social services.

When Kahauiki Village groundbreaking and blessing ceremonies were held back in July of this year, it also served to time stamp the innovative, groundbreaking model for a solution to end homelessness and improve the quality of life for families in need here in Hawaii and around the world. Collaborating partnerships between local businesses, government, and community organizations and their volunteers, effectively combines their efforts to deliver hope while offering an opportunity for families to dream for a brighter future. Their partnerships has been recognized for its potential to be incorporated and built in communities beyond our Hawaii shores.

“There were two different advisors, consultants that have come into Hawaii, one that was hired by the state, and one hired by the city, and when they looked at our model, they said this is like the model for the rest of United States,” Kurisu said.  “For people in general who are looking for solutions for homelessness, and just providing shelter, there’s something much larger than just shelter. It’s about community. It’s about feeling good about yourself. That’s part of it, so our project is designed around the need that you can live with dignity. For this project, it’s all about the segment that we are working on for families with children. It’s really about children living here and having a chance to dream for their future rather than where we’re going to live today, what we’re going to eat today? When I graduate from high school, maybe I can go to college, or work as a carpenter, truck driver, at least there’s a dream.”

The generosity from supporters of Kahauiki Village have at times overwhelmed Mr. Kurisu as the reality of the completion of the project gets closer. Donations of supplies and manpower have been provided by companies like; HPM (roofs), Servco (appliances, stoves), Ferguson (plumbing fixtures, toilets, sinks) Rotary Club of Honolulu (100 trees). Community organizations will be volunteering their time helping out with painting of the units, landscaping, etc.   

“For me personally, I’m just in awe of the generosity from people in this town,” Kurisu said. “We have a really generous community here in Hawaii. People are willing to help and not one person has said no. You can say this is a homeless village, but this is more of a community getting together to help resolve one of the most pressing situations that we face today, homelessness.”

It’s all about being given a chance to Dream!

“For me as well as the people that are volunteering, it’s really about feeling happy for the children that live here. That they have a chance to dream, that they have a chance to think about a brighter future.”


Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Exterior view of Kahauiki Village homes under construction.

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Duane Kurisu, aio CEO and President and driving force behind the creation

and development of Kahauiki Village, is pictured recently inside one of 150

units that will soon be home for a homeless family. Kurisu is pictured in front

of a sink donated by Ferguson Plumbing supplies. Ferguson is one of several

local businesses who has contributed to the success of the development of

Kahauiki Village with their generous plumbing supplies donation..

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Interior view of Kahauiki Village two-bedroom home.

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Construction workers work on buliding one of several structures that will

serve Kahauiki Village support services (i.e. IHS administration office).

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Contractor photonworks is responsible for the photovoltaic

power system installation and maintenance.