After nearly three decades of planning, lawsuits, Supreme Court action, community activism, bankruptcy, foreclosure, discussion and, finally, agreement, the development of Kohanaiki is nearing fruition.
Touted as one of the last opportunities for buyers of oceanfront property on the Big Island, Kohanaiki Shores LLC will begin selling luxury units April 1 with the first residences expected to be complete — if all goes as planned — within two years, said Kohanaiki Shores Chief Operating Officer Joe Root.
An invitation-only opening is slated for Saturday where the developer will meet with potential buyers. Root added there has been a good deal of interest in the resort community.
“It’s a very unique opportunity in a very special place,” he said. “It’s a rarity these days.”
Root was unable to provide an estimate on home prices in the development, but said the range would be similar to other luxury developments in North Kona. Seven homes, netting between $1.8 million and $4.4 million, have been sold in nearby luxury developments at Kukio and Hualalai Resort since January, according to the Multiple Listing Service.
Root said, as of Tuesday, work on the infrastructure for the entire 470-acre development is complete as is a beach club facility and the Rees Jones-designed golf course that featuring six ocean-side holes. Several of 12 hale have been constructed to provide an area for people to stay while building their homes, he said. A community park is also nearing completion.
At full build-out, the private golf course community located about four miles north of Kailua-Kona will comprise 500 home sites and residences, Root said. Though approved for 500 lots, it’s unlikely Kohanaiki will reach that number, he added.
“The building will occur over a long period of time,” Root said. “Our goal is to grow the project organically and be on a steady pace that happens over a long period of time allowing for less impact and the community” to grow together.
Kohanaiki anticipates the development will have significant economic impact on the Kona area. Root said, at times, the property has had more than 500 people working on the project in a variety of capacities including construction, maintenance and operations.
“It’s huge for Kona,” he said.
Aunty Elizabeth Maluihi Lee, an area descendant who assisted culturally and historically with the project, said Tuesday she was proud of the improvements and benefits it will have for Kona residents.
“It is very amazing to see what it is today,” she said, referring to decades ago when cattle and other ungulates roamed the dry land where the development is being built. “I never thought that I would see it anything like this.”
Kohanaiki will hold a public grand opening for the resort community and 38-acre community park with improved showers, restrooms, campsites and beach access in the coming weeks, Root said.
“The beach, park and trail, and access along the beach will be open,” he said. “And it will stay that way.”
Despite the public park and above vow to remain open, Janice Palma-Glennie, a former member of the Kohanaiki Ohana, expressed concern over apparent plans to close a jeep trail providing vehicle access to the southern portion of the coastal property. She is circulating an online petition she said has garnered 1,600 signatures.
“It’s not good. They’re making a real grab,” she said. “If the public is not using (it), they (the developer) will go further.”
Karen Eoff, a founding member of Kohanaiki Ohana and now the North Kona councilwoman, did not return a phone call seeking comment as of press time.
Development of the area dates back to the mid-1980s when Kona Beach Development Venture moved ahead with land use reclassification to develop its Kohanaiki Resort Community on 470 acres north of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. To be included were 500 condominiums, 200 single-family homes, a 3-acre commercial area, a marina and corresponding commercial area, a 170-acre golf course, support housing and roads, easements, parking and sewage treatment, according to an April 1986 West Hawaii Today article.
Nansay Hawaii Inc. in early 1989 purchased the acreage and began planning its own resort community that was to include an 800-room hotel, a 250-room hotel, 380 single-family homes, 300 multipurpose family units, a golf course and clubhouse, according to West Hawaii Today archives.
With Nansay Hawaii nine years and $4 million behind in tax payments, the property was sold to real estate investor and marketer Kennedy Wilson International. Then Kennedy entered into an agreement with Rutter Development and Kohanaiki Shores LLC to find a way to develop the property. Through the work of former Mayor Harry Kim and a number of other community organizations, including Protect Kohanaiki Ohana, a deal was reached in 2003.
Kohanaiki Project Manager Kaimi Judd said an affordable housing complex required for the project was completed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Kumakua is located in Hawi, he said.