Our Town: The Pumehana

An old building gets a whole new hue.

H1 commuters may have noticed this recent upgrade to the Makiki cityscape. It’s not a new building, just a sharp, new, white and blue paint job at 1212 Kinau St.-a welcome departure from the gray and beige paint on most such concrete high-rises in town.

The building you’re looking at is the Pumehana, a 21-story, low-income housing building run by the state Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawai’i (HCDCH). The apartments were originally built in 1973, but, by 2003, the aging concrete exterior had begun to spall, or chip off, prompting a year-long structural investigation and repair project that finished up just last month.

A happy side effect of the renovation has been the snappy new paint job. Jung Kum Lee, of Architects Hawai’i, created the blue and white color scheme, one of three proposed by the firm. Architect Alan Atkinson was the lead designer on the project, and says he hopes the new Pumehana signals a trend towards more colorful buildings.

“If you look around Honolulu, the colors are somewhat monotonous. You really notice the few buildings that have taken a different approach.”

New, more durable paint technologies are helping make Honolulu brighter. “Over the years, there’s been reluctance to use blue, because the color, especially in its more intense hues, tends not to weather well in tropical climates,” Atkinson says. “But we’ve used a high-performance elastomeric coating on the exterior of the building, and this is a light enough color that we shouldn’t have any problem with it.”

Stephanie Aveiro, executive director of the HCDCH, made the final choice on the color scheme, and wanted to get away from the samey-same look of the agency’s older buildings. “A lot of our projects are this tan color, so we didn’t go with any tans or browns or yellows,” she says. “I must say that I’ve taken great pleasure in the process. The building looked pretty bad before, and to see it the way it is now is great.”