Long overdue renovations for Varona Village
It is the small Oahu village that time seemed to forget, and it looked like the city did too...until now.
HONOLULU - It is the small Oahu village that time seemed to forget, and it looked like the city did too...until now.
Varona Village was originally built for sugar plantation workers, but now its residents wonder who will live there in the future.
Development is not far off for Varona Village. The new 1,400,000-square-foot mall Ka Makana Alii will be located next door, and maybe it will finally be time for the old village to be fixed up as well.
Varona Village is a throw back to the plantation days. The sounds of sugar production are no longer heard, but the sounds of plantation families can still be heard in the tight-knit community that is slowly coming apart, one home at a time.
The city was supposed to renovate Varona Village when it did the other Ewa Villages more than two decades ago.
"We are supposed to be the last ones, but they ran out of money. So we are still waiting," said Varona Village resident Cres Malate.
Instead of redevelopment, residents have watched aging homes torn down or boarded up because of neglect.
Of the 100 house lots, only two dozen homes have original tenants in them. Another dozen are owned by family members of former plantation workers, while almost all the other lots are empty.
"The redevelopment and rehabilitation of Varona Village is long overdue. The city made promises that the areas will be rehabbed and homes will be available for sale at affordable prices," said Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor.
So it is understandable many residents who came to a community meeting about the future of Varona Village, instead focused on the past.
"The government has let us down so many times, that's why I rail about government. It's not fair. We constantly have to battle the government and the city and the results are minimal," said Ewa Beach resident Glenn Oamilda.
This time around, Menor said it will be different: the city will put out a request for rehab proposals this summer after key issues are decided.
"There are several issues that still need to be hammered out, like the affordable issues and the prices to residents. Along with whether the homes will be for sale or rent and what will rental rates be," said Menor.
Right now, original tenants may only pay $50 a month in rent. Others like Roberto Selga, whose father worked for the sugar companies but died two years ago, pay hundreds more. But, Selga and others still struggle to keep a roof overhead because residents are responsible for repairs to the aging homes. And they will continue to be until the city comes through with those renovations, which were promised more than 20 years ago.
"We just wait. We're going to wait, but not until we die," said Malate.
Along with expressing concerns that elderly tenants on fixed incomes would be able to afford to live there once the homes are renovated, residents wanted to make sure the character of the quiet community remains after the rehab is done.
There will be another community meeting Sunday in Ewa.