Development Blog

Land Use, Business & The Economy

Honolulu Mayor Celebrates Renovated Kakaako Park

Developer Stanford Carr donated money to add a new basketball court, playground and landscaping.

·By Anita Hofschneider and Chad Blair

Surrounded by community members and keiki, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and developer Stanford Carr unveiled the revitalized Mother Waldron Park in Kakaako on Friday.

Carr gave the city $500,000 to renovate the 1.76-acre park by adding a new basketball court, playground and landscaping. The area borders Carr’s new low-income housing development called Halekauwila Place.

Reopening ceremony for Waldron Park in Kakaako, Sept. 12, 2014.

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

The historic park, which was built in 1937, was designed by Harry Sims Bent in the art deco style, and named after Margaret Waldron (1873-1936), a teacher who helped youth gangs in Kakaako.

“I look at this park as a bringing back to life of something that lived so long ago and once again lives, centered right here in the heart on one of the most urban dense areas of our community,” Caldwell said.

The mayor also told a story about Mother Waldron that took place during World War I. She had wanted to use the area as a park, but it was strewn with rocks.

To solve that problem, she got a photo of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who led Germany during the war, and had it enlarged, placed on plywood and secured to a tree.

Waldron then instructed neighborhood kids to throw the rocks at the Kaiser, effectively clearing the area for a playground. America, of course, fought Germany during the war.


Report: Kauai Resort Sold For $343 Million to Thai-Chinese Investor

It's one of the first major investments from China in Hawaii, Pacific Business News reported.

·By Anita Hofschneider

The Princeville Resort on the north shore of Kauai has been sold to a Chinese company for $343 million, Pacific Business News reported Wednesday.

Reignwood International, a $2 billion company owned by Thai-Chinese businessman Chanchai Ruayrungruang, bought 1,103 acres of the resort as well as the Prince Golf Course.

A taro field in Hanalei, Kauai.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

PBN reported that the company plans to retain its employees and that the sale is one of the first major Chinese investments in Hawaii.

“Hawaii’s culture has deep roots in Asian heritage as many of my good friends cherish the islands and have made them their preferred vacation destination or home,” Ruayrungruang said. “We’re excited to be part of the Kauai and Hawaii communities.”

Click here to read the full story from PBN.

Maunawili: The Richest Town in Hawaii

Business Insider reveals the communities with the highest median incomes in each state.

·By Anita Hofschneider

Chevy Chase, Maryland. Hidden Hills, California. Mauanawili, Hawaii.

Although they’re thousands of miles apart, these neighborhoods all have one thing in common: Their residents are the wealthiest in each state, according to an analysis of Census data by Business Insider.

The median household income in Maunawili is $137,143, more than twice as much as the statewide median of $67,492. And it’s way more than the national median household income of $53,046.

Click here to read the full story from Business Insider.

State Gives $5M to Maui Sports Complex That Neighbors Want to Stop

Central Maui homeowners are suing the state and county to halt construction, citing violations of county zoning laws.

·By Anita Hofschneider

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has released $5 million to fund the construction of the Central Maui Regional Sports Complex just a week after Maui homeowners filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

The $25 million project is slated to include multiple baseball, softball and soccer fields and a 700-stall parking lot across 65 acres in central Maui.

A nonprofit organization called Maui Lani Neighbors, made up of Central Maui homeowners, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 2 alleging that the project violates zoning laws and county planning documents.

The groundbreaking for the Maui Sports Complex on July 31.

Courtesy of the Office of the Lt. Governor

The group sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in July requesting that the project be halted.

But the complex broke ground on July 31.

“The state’s refusal to specifically respond to the numerous violations cited in our cease-and-desist letter, and our concerns regarding the serious impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods, left us no choice,” said David Potter, president of the Maui Lani Neighbors Board, in a press release on Sept. 3. “Even if the sports fields are needed, it doesn’t justify violating our land use laws, which are supposed to ensure developers, including the state, adhere to the county’s planning documents.”

The group argues that the project should instead be placed on a 209-acre lot further south.

But both Abercrombie and Tsutsui are backing the project.

“I was on Maui last month to help break ground on a

HCDA To Consider Director’s Salary Increase in Closed Meeting

UPDATED: Some Kakaako residents oppose the secrecy and proposed raise.

·By Anita Hofschneider

UPDATED 9/9/14 3:45 p.m.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority board is planning to meet to decide whether or not to appoint a committee that could increase Executive Directory Anthony Ching’s salary by as much as $20,000.

UPDATE The meeting was supposed to be held on Tuesday at noon but will be rescheduled because the board didn’t have enough members to meet quorum.

The meeting will be closed to the public, pursuant to a Hawaii law that allows the board to hold closed meetings if they deal with private matters of an employee.

HCDA is in charge of development in Kakaako, where more high-rises have been sprouting up this year.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

According to Tuesday’s agenda, the HCDA board is scheduled to decide whether to appoint a committee that will develop a process to evaluate Ching’s performance; conduct a performance evaluation; and set his salary to match the recommended salary of the director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

The committee’s work would be confidential under the same exception to the Sunshine Law allowing the meeting to be closed to the public.

DBEDT is one of several departments within the executive branch that manage statewide programs. HCDA is an agency within DBEDT, and manages development in Kakaako, Kalaeloa and Heeia.

The development agency has been highly criticized over the past several months for approving controversial high-rise developments, sparking litigation and legislation to reign in its authority.

Ching’s salary was $110,244.00 in 2013, while the state salary commission recommended DBEDT Director Richard

Honolulu Councilman Advocates Ohana Units as Affordable Housing Solution

Honolulu Councilman Ron Menor introduced a resolution to allow homeowners to rent accessory dwelling units to non-family members.

·By Anita Hofschneider

Honolulu Councilman Ron Menor wants to encourage homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, currently known as ohana units, to increase the supply of low-cost housing in Hawaii.

The council member from central Oahu has introduced a resolution amending the city’s land use ordinance to allow homeowners to build a second housing unit on their properties that they can rent to anyone. Right now, the city limits occupancy of such units to family members (hence the name “ohana units”).

Halekauwila Place is the only new development in fast-growing Kakaako considered “affordable” for low-income residents. Hawaii’s demand for affordable housing far outstrips the supply.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Menor said in a press release that he understands “thorough discussions are needed” to ensure that the resolution won’t negatively impact existing neighborhoods.

The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice advocated for accessory dwelling units in its recent report on Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis, which found that rents in Hawaii grew 45 percent between 2005 and 2012.

“This ordinance will not solve Oahu’s affordable housing crisis but will put a significant dent in it, while creating greater income opportunities for low-income landowners,” said Victor Geminiani from the Hawaii Appleseed Center in a press release. “It’s a small, simple change that could make a big difference for a lot of families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.”

A 2011 state report found that Hawaii needed 19,000 low-income housing units by 2016 to meet demand.

Read the full resolution below:

Accessory Dwelling

Honolulu Home Price Dips Slightly Compared With August Last Year

The median price of a condo remained steady, according to new data from the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

·By Anita Hofschneider

New data from the Honolulu Board of Realtors reveals that Honolulu’s median home price dropped slightly last month compared with August 2013, falling from $665,000 to $650,000 for a single-family home.

The price of a condo remained the same at $350,000. Sales of homes and condos were also down, as well as the average price of both.

Just two months ago, Honolulu’s median home price hit a record high of $700,000.

Julie Meier, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors, said the data still shows that Hawaii has a healthy housing market, noting that demand is still high and inventory is rising.

“While on the surface it may look like this past August was not on par with last August for sales of single-family homes, the truth is that August 2013 was a banner month – the high point of sales for the year,” Meier said in a press release. “It would have been very difficult to duplicate that this year. Still, this remains a very healthy market, as evidenced by the fact that the average single-family home was on the block for only 15 days before being sold.”

Click here for more data from the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

Howard Hughes Withdraws Petition to Provide Fewer Affordable Units in Kakaako

The developer asked HCDA to clarify whether it would be OK to provide rentals that remain inexpensive for a longer period of time in lieu of for-sale units.

·By Anita Hofschneider

Howard Hughes Corp. has withdrawn its petition to the Hawaii Community Development Authority asking whether it would satisfy the agency’s affordable housing requirements in Kakaako to build fewer affordable rental units that remain affordable a longer period of time instead of more for-sale units.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported last week that Howard Hughes Corp. had submitted the application, which could reduce the amount of moderate-priced housing created in the redevelopment district.

Building cranes on new construction in Kakaako area on July 21, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to prime Kakaako for development, but relatively few projects are affordable for low-income Hawaii residents who have the greatest housing need. Criticism of how HCDA has managed development contributed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s historic loss of the primary election last month.

HCDA was scheduled to consider Howard Hughes Corp.’s petition at its meeting on Wednesday morning.

But Race Randle, senior director of development for Howard Hughes Corp., issued a statement Tuesday afternoon withdrawing the petition “due to the misunderstanding of our request.”

Here’s his full statement:

“Ward Village is dedicated to helping fulfill the housing needs of our neighborhood. We have listened to the community and have heard great demand for more affordable options, including rentals at lower income levels. In response to this message from our community, we have asked for clarification of HCDA’s rules to better understand what options are available.

Due to the misunderstanding of our request, we have decided to temporarily withdraw it so that

Hawaii Land Use Commission Regains Quorum After Abercrombie Appoints Three Members

The statewide zoning board has been unable to conduct official business since several members quit in July.

·By Anita Hofschneider

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has appointed three interim members to the state Land Use Commission, allowing the board in charge of administering the state land use law to resume conducting official business.

The commission’s work came to a standstill in July when four members resigned and another’s term ended. At least two of the resignations were prompted by concerns regarding a new law requiring disclosure of personal financial interests.

The appointees include Brandon Ahakuelo from Honolulu, a director at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1260; Kent Hiranaga from Paia, Maui, who is president of Maui Kai Realty; and Arnold Wong from Aiea, government affairs director at the Ironworkers Union Stabilization Fund, Local 625. While the appointments are effective immediately, they are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

“The Land Use Commission can resume business thanks to Brandon, Kent and Arnold’s commitment to public service,” Abercrombie said in a press release. “Each brings a unique background of experience that will inform land use decisions in the interest of the people of Hawaii.”

Here are descriptions of Ahakuelo, Hiranaga and Wong from the governor’s press release:

Office of the Governor

Brandon Ahakuelo of Honolulu currently serves as director of organizing and training for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1260. Previously, he was a substation technician for Potomac Electric Power Company in Washington, D.C. from 2007 to 2012 and a meter reader for Nevada Power Company (NV Energy) in Las Vegas from 2004 to 2007. A graduate of Damien Memorial

The Most Popular Job in Hawaii Pays $10.92 Per Hour

New data on Hawaii's workforce finds that doctors earn the most, but the largest occupation is retail salesperson.

·By Anita Hofschneider

It pays to be a doctor in Hawaii. A new analysis of Hawaii’s 2013 workforce from the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations found that the top five highest-earning occupations were all different types of physicians, with internists earning a median wage of about $111 per hour.

But not many Hawaii residents fall into that category. More than 24,000 people work in retail sales earning a median wage of just $10.92 per hour. That’s the state’s biggest occupation next to office clerks and cashiers, which each have about 14,000, the analysis found.

The data comes from a survey taken over three years and includes information on 620 jobs, or about 78 percent of the state’s 662,150-person workforce.

The study also found that Hawaii residents in the 20 largest occupations — which include maids, janitors and store clerks — earn lower wages compared with California. Despite that, “Hawaii wages were generally higher than national average wages,” the state DLIR said in a press release.

Take a look at the top occupations and how much they earn (click to enlarge tables):

Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

A&B Kakaako Condo Sells Out Quickly

Some homeowners waited in line as early as 1:30 a.m. for sales to open at 9 a.m.

·By Anita Hofschneider

A new Kakaako condo known as The Lofts at The Collection sold out quickly over the weekend as dozens waited in line for hours to score a unit, Pacific Business News reported Monday.

The condo has 54 units, including 48 studios starting at $349,000 and six two-bedroom units starting at $540,000.

Some homebuyers lined up as early as 1:30 a.m. before sales opened at 9 a.m., PBN reported.

The condo is part of a project by Alexander and Baldwin that includes a 397-unit condo tower, 70 midrise homes and a parking garage with 914 stalls.

Despite the high demand for condo units, the project has been controversial. Residents of the neighboring One Waterfront Towers appealed the state’s decision to approve the project last year, citing impacts on the area’s infrastructure.

More Than $2.2B Spent on Hawaii Commercial Real Estate So Far This Year

Offshore investors account for vast majority of money spent on retail properties like $697 million Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

·By Anita Hofschneider

Investment in Hawaii’s commercial real estate is on the rise, with sales hitting a mid-year high of over $2.2 billion, according to a new report by the real estate company Colliers International.

More than 80 percent of the total comes from offshore investors, who have been encouraged by low interest rates and high returns.

There have been 28 percent more transactions so far this year, including $697,600,000 for the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center by JP Morgan.

The report predicts that the 2014 investment sales volume will surpass last year’s total of $3.6 billion.

Click here to read the full report.

Veterans Group to Host First VA Housing Summit in Hawaii

Not enough Hawaii service members know about government funding for housing programs, the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals says.

·By Anita Hofschneider

The Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals is hosting the first Hawaii VA Housing Summit on Saturday to help local veterans and active duty members learn about free government funding for home buyers.

“Most veterans and active duty have no idea about the many financial assistance programs that can get them into a home for less than they are paying in rent,” the organization said in a press release. “They also don’t know where or how to apply. This free Housing Summit will educate them on that.”

U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Louis Roffman bows his head in prayer before the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam remembrance ceremony on Dec. 7, 2011.

Courtesy of U.S. Army

Hawaii has one of the largest military populations of any state, but relatively few military service members take advantage of veterans programs, the organization said.

The workshop will provide military service members an opportunity to apply for housing assistance and receive a certificate of eligibility that helps them qualify for home loans.

The event will take place Saturday from 9:30a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oahu Veterans Center (Foster Village), 1298 Kukila St., Honolulu.

Click here to register.

Capitol Watch

Hawaii Economists Predict Record Number of Visitors

Quarterly state report optimistic despite effects of tropical storms.

·By Nathan Eagle

State economists are expecting 8.3 million visitors to spend $14.9 billion in Hawaii this year, which would set a new record.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s third-quarter report, released Wednesday, revises Hawaii’s economic growth upward.

Tropical Storm Iselle’s landfall and the threat of Hurricane Julio resulted in 13,500 fewer visitors on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, but the numbers are already turning around, according to DBEDT.

Tourists and Waipi‘o Valley Lookout area

David Fulmer via Flickr

Key economic indicators were mixed during the first half of 2014.

Visitor arrivals during the first half of 2014 were down by 0.5 percent, but the number of scheduled air seats is expected to increase by more than 5 percent during the second of half of the year, according to DBEDT.

Hawaii’s inflation and unemployment rates were low and are expected to remain so for the next few years. DBEDT forecasts inflation to be 1.5 percent in 2014, creeping up to 3 percent by 2017, and unemployment to drop to 4.3 percent this year and fall below 4 percent after 2015.

“Hawaii’s inflation rate (1.1 percent) was lower than the U.S. average for the first time since 2003,” DBEDT Director Richard Lim said in a news release. “At the same time, our labor market continues to improve; we are seeing a record-high labor force and workers employed during the first seven months of this year.”

There was a net loss of 100 construction jobs, but DBEDT predicts more construction activity in the coming months based on a

Honolulu Planners to Present Ala Moana Draft TOD Plan Next Week

The workshop at 6 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Washington Middle School Cafeteria will feature Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

·By Anita Hofschneider

The city Department of Planning and Permitting is holding a community workshop next week to give residents a chance to view and comment on the draft Ala Moana Neighborhood Transit-Oriented Development Plan.

The city drafted the plan after holding two public workshops and conducting several meetings with stakeholders. Next week’s workshop will take place at 6 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Washington Middle School Cafeteria.

“The Ala Moana area is one of the most vibrant communities along the rail transit corridor, but there are so many opportunities to improve on what we have to make it an even more livable and walkable community,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell in a press release. “The residents there have stepped up to let us know what they want, and it’s time for the City to step up and make this plan a reality.”

The plan still needs to be reviewed by the Honolulu Planning Commission and the City Council before it will become final.