Big Island Now poll No. 21: What do you think should be included in revitalization plans for Hilo’s iconic Banyan Drive?
July 24, 2023, 1:00 AM HST
* Updated July 24, 7:38 AM
Banyan Drive for decades has been known as the “Hilo Walk of Fame” due to the about 50 banyan trees that were planted by celebrities along the roadway. The area is also home to the Hilo Hawaiian, Grand Naniloa, Liliʻuokalani Gardens and Reed’s Bay Beach Park.
However, the iconic resort area on the Big Island’s Waiākea Peninsula has seen better days.
It has become downtrodden with dilapidated and condemned former hotel buildings, including the once thriving and historic Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel. The property has attracted some nefarious attention, with numerous fires, squatters, illegal activity and security issues reported there since the hotel closed for good in 2017.
Hawai‘i Police Department officers responded to more than 6,000 calls for service or incidents in the Banyan Drive area from September 2018 to April of this year, with the Hawai‘i Fire Department responding to nearly 950 calls from May 2018 to May of this year.
The public safety and welfare of the surrounding properties and community has been affected, and throughout the past decade the area has become something more akin to a walk of shame.
Efforts to revitalize and redevelop Banyan Drive area, which contains about 85% of the overnight visitor accommodations in East Hawai‘i, have been ongoing for years. The Hawai‘i County Council in 2016 created the Banyan Drive Hawai‘i Redevelopment Agency to help create and move redevelopment plans ahead.
Hawai‘i County Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy said in a recent resolution that the revitalization of the peninsula is vital to the economy and resilience of the Big Island.
The revitalization efforts recently received a boost from Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green, who signed an emergency proclamation to help deal with the public safety issues at the former Uncle Billy’s. The Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources in April also authorized the state Land Division to negotiate an agreement for a $20 million renovation of the former Country Club Condominiums complex, another distressed structure just down the road from Uncle Billy’s.
But there’s still more to do and we want to know what you think should be prioritized in plans by Hawai‘i County and the state, which owns the land on which several of the Banyan Drive buildings sit, as they continue to find the best path forward for the area.
Tell us here or on social media why you voted the way you did — or if your answer is not on our list, let us know what it is and explain. Results will be posted on July 30.
You can find the results from last week’s poll that asked “What is your favorite animal at the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo?” by clicking here.