DHHL’s Wailua commercial plans halted

WAILUA — The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has frozen plans to develop a commercial project makai of Kuhio Highway in Wailua, though it is moving forward with the much larger mauka residential community.

Income from the commercial component was expected to jump start the master community of up to 700 homestead lots; however, revenue bond funding became available earlier this year and will be used instead to the same end.

Hawaiian Home Lands Director Micah Kane, speaking to the governor’s Kaua‘i Community Advisory Council Wednesday at the War Memorial Convention Hall, said the $10 million allows the residential project to stick to its timeline while the department explores new options for the commercial side.

Earlier this year Hawaiian Home Lands sought proposals from developers for the 52-acre makai parcel pegged for retail, time share, resort, wholesale, industrial or office use.

The request for proposal generated a few offers, but the entire concept seems to be off the table for now.

“We pulled back on that development plan,” he said.

Asked if the department could have pursued one of the commercial proposals while still applying the bond money, Kane said, “We didn’t have to.”

The Wailua residential project includes up to 700 homestead lots for Native Hawaiians, a school, parks, community center, infrastructure improvements and a bypass road on 400 acres.

The first step will be digging an exploratory well to determine water production capacity for the area. The first 200 lot awards are expected in the latter part of 2009.

The Wailua development is expected to cut Kaua‘i’s 1,500-person waiting list for homestead lots in half. The island currently has the lowest level of home ownership among Native Hawaiians.

“The future of Hawaiian Homes really is in the Wailua area,” Kane said, stressing that the department is focusing on building communities, not just houses.

In Anahola, one of DHHL’s three areas of focus on Kaua‘i, the Pi‘ilani Mai Ke Kai subdivision will provide 160 homes.

Kaua‘i is home to 10 percent of Hawaiian Home Lands’ total acreage. As of June 30, there were 1,460 outstanding Kaua‘i applications for housing, from a statewide total of 19,418.

The department aims to deliver 5,000 homestead awards over the next five years, and Kane said they look to be on target with 1,100 leases by the end of this fiscal year.

“If we can do 1,000 units per year, then we’re hitting the families in need,” he said.

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