Loving Liliha

How Small Businesses Can Revive Their Neighborhoods

Loving Liliha

(page 3 of 3)

7 Plan community events

Amy Hammond, who founded Special Events Hawaii and the highly successful “I Love Kailua” festival, says community events help a neighborhood develop an identity by bringing people together and showcasing local talent. Events don’t need to be large; they can start small like the Liliha Gingerbread Festival, held at Christmastime in a school auditorium.

“It’s all part of instilling pride,” says Hammond. “We tried to showcase the best of Liliha and how it was special and that a lot of that was the people. We did some awards as well to recognize special citizens.” Ching helped bring talented people from the community together – an ukulele player, storytellers, lei-makers and cultural dancers.

“There’s amazing talent in Liliha,” says Hammond. “Bringing them together you get to know the people in your neighborhood. It also gives people a day when they can come together and talk about different community goals and learn about community services.

“It’s very real, nothing fancy and polished, just special community things. But the kids can say, ‘Wow, I live in a great community.’ It makes them feel special.”

An event planner like Hammond can speed the process of getting permits for things like closing down a street. There are many event planners, she says, and probably someone in every neighborhood. “It’s always best to have someone who comes from the community because then they’re really invested.”

Don’t be afraid to start small, says Hammond, noting that the now huge “I Love Kailua” festival was launched in a bank parking lot. “It can always grow,” she says. It has in Liliha. The gingerbread festival has been joined by the “I Love Liliha Town Festival” in August and the Liliha Nuuanu Candlelight Tours in January, featuring historic sites.

Event planner Amy Hammond, who created the "I Love Kailua"
festival, and Arc Painting contractor Bill Powell both helped
build community pride in Liliha.
Photo: Kevin Blitz

8 Develop a community center

The Henry M.H. Ho Building at 1630 Palama St. was spotted with graffiti when Arc Painting’s Bill Powell went to work. Offering free advice on colors and approaches, including an attractive, new awning, Powell turned the historic building into the bright pink Liliha Town Center. It has attracted some new tenants and serves as a community center with local information.

“The building looked terrible,” Powell remembers. “It kept getting tagged. I suggested they really try hard to bring it back. You can’t leave graffiti on your building because it attracts more graffiti artists. This (makeover) shows you have pride, and respect your property and says, ‘We’d appreciate it if you’d do the same.’ ”

The results

It was hard work, and more work remains, but Liliha now has strolling residents and visitors, a new clock and fountain, streets that feel safer and a town center. Someone even claims to have spotted actress Tia Carrere.

“This is the new ‘in’ place,’” declares Ching. “I believe we’re sitting on a gold mine. It’s close to downtown, close to the airport and 15 minutes from Kailua. We’re local. We’re funky. We’re authentic.

“When you believe you’re fantastic, you are.”

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