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The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc

Corps Community Center

Kapolei, Hawai‘i

01 Kroc Entrance 3 Girls A March 2012.jpg
01 Kroc TARO .JPG
000 Kroc Taro Kupu March 2013.JPG

The dream of the McDonald’s family came true with the creation of The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Kapolei, Hawai‘i. The Kroc Family’s goal of building community centers around the world was accomplished.  The setting was in the middle of the Ewa plain, with miles of dusty sugarcane fields. This desolate area was transformed into a 15 acre, 200,000 square foot, non-profit, state-of-arts Community Center.  It has emerged into a special gathering place for a worship center, keiki learning center, arts, sports facilities, and a recreation center. The Landscape Architect designed the site by creating a cohesive planting design to connect these many different gathering spaces. The landscape was designed with the intent of creating an educational, fun, and healthy atmosphere, which instills a warm sense of community, where everyone is welcomed.


The key to the landscape design was to create an environmentally sensitive landscape. The Kroc Center Hawai‘i proves this at its highest level, through its careful design, in caring for the land and helping to promote, preserve, and encourage the planting of as many native Hawaiian plants as possible.  More than 35% of the plants used on this project are native Hawaiian species. Since Hawai‘i is the endangered species capital of the world, preserving and celebrating Hawai‘i's native plants was the focus to insure their vital survival.  The focus of the project was also exemplified in the educational aspect of the design.



The quality of design was exceptional, from utilizing every space to tell a story with native plants, culturally significant plants, plants used for sustainability purposes, to plants being functional and beautiful. With such a large project of different buildings and open spaces, the circulation and design of the meandering pathways helped to complement the buildings and connect with grace and ease the many different gathering spaces. Design development attention to the materials was planned, with the selection of integral colored concrete and heavy rock salt finish pathways, showing this detail.


The plant selections played a significant role in creating distinctive atmospheres at every venue for the gardens. With the grouping of specific trees, each area formed its own character. Here are some of the special trees that helped to transform the character to create micro-environmental niches:

  1. The native Kamani Trees, planted in the center of the courtyard garden, were the first trees initially specified and the landscape seemed to easily flow around them.  The 3 Kamani Trees, with their magnificent gnarled branches, not only provide shade, but their meaning in celebrating its ancestral roots makes its strength and presence known, capturing the prominence of the area.

  2. The native Kou Trees, a favorite shade tree, were originally planted around ancient Hawaiian hales. The present Kou Trees were planted to both provide shade and to help mitigate the heat.

  3. Two Breadfruit Trees, reminiscent of the lifestyle of the Hawaiian culture, were planted. To honor its significance, the 1st Breadfruit Tree was prominently planted in the courtyard and most importantly, placed to frame The Salvation Army Cross. The 2nd Breadfruit Tree was located in the heart of the Keiki Learning Center with its role to emphasize the development of young healthy minds in a nurturing environment.

  4. Seagrape Trees provide a promenade and grand walkway to the Gym. 

  5. In the months from March to November, beautiful soft white and yellow flowers of the Queen's White Shower Trees were selected to provide the much needed and required shade for the parking area and they also seem to bring a welcoming sign of Spring.                                                                                                             


  1. Hand selecting and personally directing the placement of the trees assured the fluidity to carry out the design and enabled almost every living plant to have its best chance to flourish and grow.

  2. The landscape architect met with native plant propagators for availability and successful propagation of the needed native plants.

  3. The landscape architect met and worked together early on with the maintenance crew to help with the future planning for the proper care of the landscape.

  4. Long after the completion of the project, the landscape architect continuously visits the site to review the progress and to assist on the maintenance of this grand landscape project. 



Some of the elements that make up the Design Context for Kroc Center Hawai‘i are the following:

1.   The circulation of the Courtyard's meandering pathways functionally connect the Worship Center, Conference Facility, Classrooms, and Art Studio and they also serve a grander purpose of providing a central gathering place.

2.   Garden planters adjacent to the learning center and surrounding the courtyard become learning gardens for the Keiki to interact and participate in planting their own gardens.  This opens their minds and unleashes their creativity through hands-on experiences in a natural environment as future protectors of our fragile environment.

3.   Each classroom planter was designed using different native Hawaiian plant groupings. Taro a staple food for the Hawaiians, a planting of ‘Uki‘uki that the ancient Hawaiians used for dyeing kapa, and Native ‘Akia fruit that were used to stun and catch fish, were planted.


  1. Outdoor classrooms were created and garden spaces were designed.  There is also a fun tricycle path for motor skills for future bicyclists and environmentalists. Bicycling in this growing community has been encouraged with bicycle areas located at the main entrance. The bicycle ridership is up, showing that the environmental stewardship is working in Kapolei.

2.   The tall slides of the water feature area are mitigated with palms. A multitude of native and drought tolerant plants that could meet the climatic growing conditions of the salt water pools.

3.   The Aquatic Center comes to life with pockets of planting areas in amoeba shapes. This circular, radiating splash paving pattern was designed to complement the amoeba shaped planters.


Designed with LEED construction practices in mind, Green Screens were installed on the building facades of many of the exposed walls.  The following are design elements that reflect the importance of this sustainable ecological sensitive landscape design:

  1. For sustainable reasons, 3 native Hawaiian plant species that once dominated the Ewa Plain have found their way back to their Kapolei home.  Natives Naio, Ewa Hinahina, and the       Ko‘oloa ‘ula that all originated from Kapolei and are now thriving in the Keiki Learning Center garden.

  2. A 960 linear foot long service drive planter was planted with all native plants.  Below the Kukui Nut Trees, grow vast plantings of native Pohinahina, Pa‘-o-hi‘aka, Beach Naupaka, and ‘Akulikuli. It is the largest community center native onsite plant nursery in Hawai‘i which serves to restore damaged areas around the site. This nursery serves environmentally by utilizing plants from this climatic ecosystem that are naturally drought tolerant plants for this dry and windy Kapolei area.

  3. Drought Tolerant plants were selected because they are more suited to conditions that require less water, fertilizer, pest and disease control measures.

  4. Shade Trees were specified to reduce heat buildup and cool building facades.

  5. Edible plants ware seen throughout, especially in the Keiki Learning Center for interactive learning.

  6. Crown Flowers were planted around the Keiki Learning Center to attract butterflies.                                                                                                                              


The role of the Landscape Architect was accomplished by fulfilling the Kroc Family and the Salvation Army Family’s wishes to build this exceptional community center.  Located near the future rail line, the promotion and sharing of values of cultural and connectivity to beyond the Kapolei community will be realized.  The landscape design was appreciated by other designers who asked about this project’s design and also its connection, conveniently accessible to the nearby rail station.


It was a collaborative effort by the Owners, the design team, and the construction team, to meet the community’s needs and to help the non-profit Salvation Army organization serve as a role model in business and in everyday life by making positive contributions to educate and support this growing community. 


The Kroc Center surpassed its expectations, with 12,000 members and approximately 1,500 visitors a day.  A community center is here with welcoming arms! The Kroc Center was specifically designed so that every corner of the landscape fosters a learning experience, from the large variety of the native plants, drought tolerant plants, edible plants, and plants used in the Hawaiian culture.  With sustainability in mind, and a goal for the keiki to take part in caring for their garden surroundings, this new community center is a welcoming place and a gathering place where dreams are made from!  It is a wonderful place indeed, an important setting to raise and nurture beautiful minds in the welcoming Kroc Center Hawai`i. 

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2 Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center Exquisite Photos by Photographer David Franzen,

                     Franzen Photography, Kailua Hawai`i,

Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center Photographs by Dana Anne Yee,  FASLA

and Rendering by Group 70 International, Inc. and Dana Anne Yee, Landscape Architect, LLC


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