Costco predicts August opening

LIHU’E — Ideally, grading of the land where the island’s first Costco warehouse store will be built should begin next month, with an April start of construction, and an August opening date, said Jack Frank, vice president of real estate development of Costco.

Frank flew in from Seattle to attend a meeting of the Kaua’i Planning Commission yesterday, where commission members approved changes to the Costco’s traffic-circulation plan, which will see some parking areas adjacent to the existing Home Depot parking lot in Kukui Grove Village West.

“Costco is committed to Kaua’i. Costco is committed to this project,” said Frank, answering questions on many people’s minds after published reports had Costco officials mulling whether or not to proceed with the project in the face of quickly-rising construction costs.

The “sticker shock of project costs” is being felt not only by Costco leaders and not only on Kaua’i and in Hawai’i, but across the Mainland was well, Frank told commission members at their first meeting of 2006 in the Lihu’e Civic Center Mo’ikeha Building first-floor conference room.

Natural disasters have upped the demand for building materials, shortened the supply, and caused prices to skyrocket, said Frank, who added that he has seen anywhere from 30 percent to 200 percent increases in construction pricing.

Still, Costco leaders remain committed to building the Kaua’i store, he said. “We would like to open as soon as possible,” ideally before the company’s fiscal year ends on Aug. 31, 2006, said Frank.

Officials from Grove Farm need to arrange for the moving of a water line, the building permit still needs to be obtained, and some earth work needs to be done, said Frank, who hoped yesterday’s appearance would be his last before commission members.

Costco officials still plan on moving forward on both the warehouse facility and parking structure, as well as an adjacent gas station. The two proposals are subjects of separate applications for county permits.

The subject before commissioners yesterday was a request to modify the warehouse traffic-circulation plan and one of the conditions of the necessary permits, which were approved by commissioners in May 2005.

Commissioner Abby Santos asked Frank about intent to use local contractors, which is a condition of the issuance of the permits.

Frank explained that Costco officials work with a certain steel contractor who secures both the steel and provides the construction, and that that contractor will work with local subcontractors as much as possible.

There will be some subcontractors from Kaua’i, and some from off-island, Frank said.

Santos said she has a concern about how off-island construction workers will find housing while they’re on Kaua’i.

Frank thanked commissioners and Kaua’i Planning Department staff members for their “attention and professionalism.”

Commissioner Larry Chaffin moved, and Commissioner Steve Weinstein seconded, the motion to approve the request for the traffic-circulation and condition change, and the motion was unanimously approved by commissioners in attendance.

“Good luck, gentlemen,” said new commission Chair Randy Nishimura.

Weinstein banged the gavel to call to order the first commission meeting of 2006, then entertained a motion from Santos to name Nishimura chair. That motion was approved unanimously.

Nishimura then took the gavel, and called for nominations for vice chair. Santos nominated Theodore “Ted” Daligdig III, who was not present at the meeting. That motion was seconded, and also carried unanimously.

Nishimura then named Sandi Kato-Klutke, who was also not present at the meeting, to be chair of the commission’s Sub-division Committee, with Weinstein as vice chair, Commissioner Imaikalani Aiu as member, and Chaffin as first alternate.

Weinstein thanked fellow commissioners, county Planning Department staff members, developer and applicants for working with commission members, and the public. “We appreciate all the testimony.”

Santos thanked Weinstein for his year as chair, and Nishimura acknowledged Weinstein’s leadership in calendar 2005 as well.

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