Dana Anne Yee, Landscape Architect, LLC.


Project Name:Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
Location:Kapolei, Hawaiʻi
Client:The Salvation Army

It was Ray & Joan Kroc's dream and vision to have community centers around the country built in needy areas and Kapolei, Hawaiʻi was the recipient of one of the biggest endowments of $110 million, with an additional $23 million raised locally. The Salvation Army, Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center's grand opening presented itself to the community on January 28, 2012.

"My grandmother wanted every child, no matter his or her economic background, to enjoy a more luxurious place than they ever imagined," said the granddaughter of Joan Kroc.

This special non-profit Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center includes a worship center, a keiki learning center, arts and sports facilities and is home of the most native Hawaiian plant species and plants used in the Hawaiian culture in any community center. Since Hawaiʻi is the endangered species capital of the world, preserving and celebrating Hawaiʻi's native plants was the focus. The landscape design accomplished this goal to plant as many native plants as possible to insure the vital survival of native Hawaiian species. Working together with native plant growers, Rick Barbosa and Dennis Kim early on in the project helped to develop the plant palate. This provided the Salvation Armyís gardens to be planted with approximately 35% to 40% native Hawaiian plant species in many different varieties. Most importantly, three native Hawaiian plant species have found their way back to their Kapolei home. The native plants, Naio, Ewa Hinahina, and the Ko'oloa 'ula all originated from the Kapolei area.

This 15 acre, 200,000 s.f. facility is the talk of the town of Kapolei. This area, once filled with sugarcane fields, has become a welcoming place to bring the community together. This state-of-the-arts facility is more than a community center with so many interesting and different areas. The landscape design was essential to connect the variety of building functions and outdoor activities. A landscape master plan was developed to seamlessly incorporate the many areas and buildings, while creating special gathering spaces for each specific planned area.

The landscape was especially important to instill a warm sense of community. The plant selections played a significant role in creating the atmosphere for each of the varied gathering spaces. Tree species were carefully selected to provide identity and character. The landscape architect and the landscape contractor went the extra mile to assure this. After many nursery and plant sourcing visits, trees and plants were tagged and reserved well over a year in advance of the planting day, giving the plants a chance to acclimate to the hot Kapolei climate. The stage was set!

A meandering pathway amongst a grove of swaying Coconut Palms and the waving leaves of the Hala Trees, seem to invite community members and visitors to the entrance. The main welcoming entrance is graced with two native Loulu Fan Palms. This entrance is filled with native plants, including the attractive varied green color fronds of the Hapuíu Tree Ferns that greet visitors as they start their journey through the Kroc Community Center. Once in the Kroc Center, six stately Loulu Fan Palms fill the courtyard with a sense of openness and grandness. And most importantly, throughout the Kroc Center, the trees and palms proudly frame The Salvation Army Cross. The carefully formally placed Loulu Fan Palms create a pleasant seating area below, while the shadow play of the palm leaves seem to dance on the pavement. A trellis draped with cascading White Thunbergia Vine flowers provide the perfect setting for performances at the outdoor pavilion gathering space.

The tree and plant species were selected for their function, but more importantly, these trees and plants were chosen for their meaningful cultural significances. An example, is the use of the native Kou Trees, a favorite shade tree that were planted around ancient Hawaiian hale. Kou Trees are now planted around the boundaries of the Kroc Community Centerís home to provide shade and to help mitigate the heat.

Magnificent strong trunks and gnarled branches of the three native Kamani Trees anchor the central courtyard and capture the prominence of the area. The main functions of the trees are to provide shade but itís meaning in celebrating its ancestral roots, makes its strength and majestic precedence known. The Kamani Trees were the first trees chosen during the design stages and the landscape design seems to easily flow around it.

Social interaction was planned and carried throughout the project. An example is the Courtyard's graceful meandering pathways functionally connect the Worship Center, Conference Facility, Classrooms and Art Studio and also serve a grander purpose of providing a central gathering place. In the Center of the courtyard is the Zoysia 'El Toro' grass berm, where Keiki enjoy it with laughter and cartwheels.

These garden planters became learning gardens for the keiki opening their minds and unleashing the creativity through hands-on experiences in their natural environment. Each classroom planter is planted with a different native Hawaiian plant grouping. Culturally plants were selected for a meaningful source of knowledge for the keiki of Hawaiʻi. Taro, a staple food for the Hawaiians, was specifically used in this area so that the keiki could be aware of this important food source for the Hawaiians. Nearby, is a small grove planting of ëUkiíuki that the ancient Hawaiians used for dyeing tapa. Native ëAkia fruit were used to stun and catch fish.

Because the Breadfruit Tree was so important to the lifestyle of the Hawaiian culture, two were planted. To honor its significance, the 1st Breadfruit Tree was prominently planted in the courtyard and most importantly, designed to frame The Salvation Army Cross. The 2nd Breadfruit Tree is located in the heart of the Keiki Learning Center with its role to emphasis the development of young healthy minds in a nurturing environment. two Thornless Hala Trees were also planted for their usefulness since nearly every part of the tree is used. The newly planted Koaia Tree provides strength and energy to the Keiki learning center. An Autograph Tree (that can be used to sign names) and Sunflowers were planted, adding to the keikiís childhood memories. Beneath the branches of these trees are many native Hawaiian plants and plants used in the Hawaiian culture. Some of the natives, such as Maío (Hawaiian Cotton) were selected for their cultural resources. Keiki can learn about the sustainability of the land and how their garden can provide food with edible plants growing in their gardens. Low grass berms and meandering tricycle pathways were designed to develop their motor skills. Colorful safe play equipment and children's height seat walls were planned for outdoor classrooms. Within this protected area are the three Native Hawaiian plants that were originally found in Kapolei. Some of the garden spaces were planted to be interchangeable and can be used for different classroom garden projects. Planter spaces in front of each classroom are designed and dedicated to the imagination and exploration for the keiki of the Kroc Center.

Designed with LEED construction practices in mind, Green screens were installed on the building facades of many of the exposed walls. This helped both the environment and provided a cooling effect for the buildings. Each gathering space is identified with different colorful flowering vines that are trained on the green screens and trellises. White and Lavender Thunbergia, 'Miss Manila' Bougainvillea and the native Nanea Vines help to create a screen of green and vibrant colorful flowers.

In the months of March to November, soft white and yellow flowers of the non-invasive Queen's White Shower Trees provide the much needed and required shade for the parking lot and a happy welcoming of summer. Creating their own special look to the parking areas, Rainbow Shower Trees with their multi-colored flowers are planted to differentiate the gym parking lot. The grass planted in the median strips help both to mitigate the heat and also provide a natural drainage system for the parking lot.

Kukui Nut Trees were planted in strong groupings along the service drive to replicate the light green leaf trees in the valley, which frames the Wai'anae Mountain Range beyond. They also serve as a screen from the freeway. Below the Trees grow vast plantings of native Beach Vitex, Beach Naupaka, and Akulikuli that not only serve as a learning experience for the Keiki, but also become a plant nursery. The 960 linear foot long service drive planter of native plants is also drought tolerant to help conserve water. In addition, to help with the conservation of water, are 2 Rain Sensors installed which automatically turn off the irrigation system when it rains. Environmentally, utilizing plants from this climatic ecosystem, planting drought tolerant plants for this dry and windy Kapolei area, and specifying native plants in most areas help to preserve and sustain our precious resources. And in fact the drought tolerant natives were growing so well that the watering of this native nursery was reduced substantially.

The Aquatic Center comes to life with pockets of planting areas in amoeba shapes. The circular, radiating splash paving pattern was planned to connect the amoeba shaped planters to the active water feature areas. Heavy rock salt finished color concrete became the hardscape paving specified throughout. The interesting planting areas were designed to create alcoves for chaise lounges for guests to sunbath near the poolís edge shaded under the canopy of the fragrant Plumeria, Beach Heliotrope and Hala Trees. Native Hawaiian plants are bountiful here. Besides the natural beauty, the planting areas are also used to soften the GFRC moss rocks and to provide a much needed cooling effect and provide relief from the glare and heat of the hardscapes. Being an active Aquatic Center, moss rock stepping stones were used in heavy pedestrian traffic areas to prevent walking on the planting areas but where landscape areas became worn the native plant nursery served its to replant these areas with native ground covers such as, Akulikuli, Beach Morning Glory. This planting also helped to protect the existing soil from runoff and invasive weeds.

Edible trees were planted throughout the property for both learning and food, such as the Breadfruit Trees and Taro. Edible Citrus Trees at the worship center garden courtyard can be viewed from both outside and inside the Church. Members can contemplate and look out into the tranquil courtyard garden planted with these fruit trees, reminiscent of a Medieval Garden of ancient times.

The landscape to the largest Community Center in the state proudly stands on its own and it is relevant to the profession and the public. The Salvation Army is a non-profit organization that serves as a role model in business and everyday life, making positive contributions, to educate and support this growing community. This new Kroc Center will add to the lifestyle with worship, recreation, classroom, and planting activities for the Kapolei area.

The Kroc Community Center was specifically designed so that every corner of the landscape fosters a learning experience, from the variety of the native plants, edible plants, and plants used in the Hawaiian culture. The native plants and plants used in the Hawaiian culture provide interest to the special gathering spaces within the Kroc Community Center. With sustainability in mind, and a goal for the keiki to take part in caring for their garden surroundings, their new community center is a welcoming place, a gathering place where dreams are made from! It is a beautiful place to raise and nurture beautiful minds in a beautiful new Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center was recognized by Scenic Hawaiʻi for a Betty Crocker Award of Excellence in 2012.