New owner, new cash help Grove Farm plans move forward

LIHU’E – It is not just because she is Grove Farm Vice President Allan Smith’s wife that Kauai High School Principal Linda Smith attended Thursday’s blessing ceremony for Grove Farm’s roadway project.

State Department of Education Kaua’i district superintendent Danny Hamada was there, too, along with a host of other state and county officials, celebrating the ceremonial start of something the private sector will complete in a matter of months that government wasn’t able to do for years.

That is, build new roads that will help ease traffic congestion in the clogged Lihu’e-Puhi corridor.

The roads will make it easier for commuters and visitors to get in to, out of, and around the island’s government and commercial center, and make it easier for parents, bus drivers and students to deliver youngsters to area schools in time to beat tardy bells.

And, with the will and extremely deep pockets of new Grove Farm Company owner Steve Case, founder of America Online, and determination of a motivated general contractor, Kiewit Pacific, the roads will be done before Christmas.

Just two years ago, though, there was much doubt at Grove Farm’s Puhi headquarters that its Puakea Golf Course would ever grow from its current 10-hole layout, or that ambitious development plans that call for residential and commercial development from Kukui Grove Center to Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School could ever take flight, said Michael Furukawa, Grove Farm vice president.

It was the late 1980s when the Grove Farm master plan for its Lihu’e lands was formulated, and until Case purchased the company and its 22,000 acres near the end of 2000, the implementation schedule for that master plan was a big question mark, Furukawa told a crowd of around 60 people gathered for the blessing of the roadwork project.

The new owner and new board are committed to see the projects move ahead, and put their money where their commitment was, he said.

Perhaps there are five million good reasons why government didn’t attempt to provide traffic relief with new roads, as it seems the cost of constructing new roads has risen exponentially.

It was once estimated that it costs around $1 million a mile to build new roads, but Grove Farm’s new roads, Nuhou and Kaneka streets, are a total of around a mile long, and the project is $5 million.

The new Nuhou Street will eventually wind from an intersection with Nawiliwili Road, meandering behind the Kukui Grove Park and Pavilion, linking up with an existing portion of Nuhou that now dead-ends behind the middle school, running to its terminus at Kaumuali’i Highway between the school and Kilohana.

Kaneka Street today is only a short stretch of pavement behind the middle school, but eventually will be connected all the way to Puhi Road where Kauai Foreign Cars is located.

The roads by the end of this year will offer a third option of traversing the congested Lihu’e-Puhi corridor, the others being Kaumuali’i Highway and Halehaka Road accessed from Kipu Road from the west and Niumalu from the east.

Furukawa estimates the remaining eight holes of the Puakea Golf Course to be ready for play by May of next year. One of the new holes is finished, with time needed to let the newly planted grass grow before it’s ready for play.

Another two holes will be grassed this week, and two more are having irrigation systems installed, all along what will soon be part of the rest of Nuhou Street, he said.

The golf course work also includes a new maintenance building, under construction off Nawiliwili Road, cart barn, another temporary location for the pro shop, a new driving range, and other features.

Work on the permanent pro shop, potentially in a historic plantation home also along Nawiliwili Road, could commence shortly after the 18-hole course is open to play, Furukawa explained.

An adult, assisted-living apartment complex to be built along Nuhou Street is nearly to the point where the owner will be applying for building permits, he said.

A residential subdivision, Pikake, is planned between Kukui Grove Village West and the school.

County officials Thursday took the opportunity to step to the microphone and sing the praises of the project, its new owner and kama’aina management.

Wallace Rezentes, Sr., administrative assistant to Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, stressed to those in attendance that the road-grading work being done near the existing driving range is legal and permitted, drawing laughter from the crowd.

More chuckles were heard when Rezentes said that he and the county look forward to the additional real property tax collections the improved property will generate.

Case’s decision to buy Grove Farm, and shortly thereafter the 19,000-acre Amfac Lihu’e lands, marked a “godsend” for all of Kaua’i, not just Grove Farm and Amfac, Rezentes said.

Ron Kouchi, County Council chair, said it is exciting to see the new health of Grove Farm, something he feels is reflected in the overall strength of the island economy.

Finally, Kouchi said he knows the long-time Kaua’i residents in charge of Grove Farm and Lihue Land Company (the former Amfac lands), Furukawa, Allan Smith and President David Pratt included, have Kaua’i at heart, and can be trusted to continue being good stewards of lands under their management.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:mailto:mailto:mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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