New Lahaina Visitor Center Planned

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- The Lahaina Town Action Committee is planning a new visitor center for Hawaii's historic whaling capital.

The committee's offices and visitor center, which included a gift shop and historic exhibits, was in Lahaina's old courthouse, which is undergoing restoration. When the courthouse closed earlier this year, the committee moved to temporary offices above the Baldwin House, a Front Street missionary home museum. The offices have no visitor facilities.

Theo Morrison, the committee's executive director, said plans for the new visitor center have been submitted to Maui County for approval, a process expected to take several months. The new $500,000 visitor center and committee offices, expected to open next year, will be on a vacant site at Lahaina Wharf next to the library.

The courthouse, dating to 1860 and once housing the court, custom house and office of the island's governor, is the town's last major historical building to be restored. The county has yet to decide on the building's future use.

The Lahaina Arts Society previously had its gallery in the court house basement. Called the Old Jail Gallery, it was housed in the old jail, complete with original cells. The society's new gallery is at the Lahaina Center, one of the town's many shopping facilities, near the Hard Rock Cafe. However, society members also continue to display their works under the courthouse's sprawling banyan.

Maui County completed an 18-month, $10 million improvement to Front Street last year. Pavements were widened, most utility lines were buried underground and parking was restricted to new bays. Also, new wood signs, wood trash barrels, planters, bike stands and Victorian-style street lighting were installed.

In other Lahaina news, Maui Brews, a 10,000-square-foot bistro and nightclub, opened at Lahaina Center in April. It serves lunch and dinner, offers more than 30 types of beer (16 on tap), and entertainment and dancing to 2 a.m.

Also, a $1.2 million Ruth's Chris Steak House, the 64th for the chain and the first on the neighbor islands, will open at Lahaina Center this summer, in a location formerly occupied by a Chili's restaurant.

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