Missing Middle Housing Projects Small Towns

Community Planning Inspired by Cultural Tradition on Kaua’i

Ancient Hawaiians did not recognize the concept of private property, but they did follow a complex system that divided land according to the natural landscape, from whole islands, down to single units that families used to cultivate crops. An ahupua’a was a larger unit of land controlled by a chief—the size of an ahupua’a depended on the area’s natural resources and was intimately related to the watershed. The Hawaiian culture emphasizes the relationship between the natural world and the beings that inhabit it—each ahupua’a could provide all the natural resources a community needed—and places an importance on the health of the watershed.

Kauai drawingKaua’i County has been working towards creating more compact and connected communities under Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho’s Holo Holo 2020 sustainability initiative. This initiative has led to numerous efforts to make Kaua’i more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly, including the adoption of a countywide multimodal land transportation plan. Opticos is currently working on two community plans—of which boundaries follow closely those of the ancient ahupua’a—that seek to incorporate sustainability goals and establish a vision for how they should grow in the future.

Opticos associate John Miki is in Hawai’i this week to discuss Place Types and how the communities on the island of Kaua’i want to grow in the future, in a way that reinforces the Hawaiian concept of ahupua’a while balancing the need of residents and visitors for places that are compact, connected, and walkable, with the need to preserve the watersheds and natural environment. Among the proposals under discussion are Missing Middle building types, which provide affordable, multigenerational housing with residential densities that support local retail and allow residents to age in place.

Opticos is acting as a sub-consultant for two firms: PBR Hawaii and SSFM International—Dan Burden of The Walkable and Livable Communities Institute is a collaborator on the SSFM team. John is working with both teams this week and will be participating on a “walk audit” with SSFM and Dan Burden on Saturday.

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