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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Turtle Bay planning five hotels, 3,500 rooms

What do you think of plans to further expand development
at Turtle Bay and Kawela Bay?
Join our discussion
 •  Turtle Bay Resort needs area support
 •  Expansion follows pattern for owners
 •  Promise of jobs doesn't sway everyone

By Will Hoover
Advertiser North Shore Writer

Two hotels are planned for Kawela Bay, top, just around the point from Turtle Bay. And the Turtle Bay resort hotel, bottom, won't remain alone on its stretch of beachfront — two more hotels will go up, one on each side of it.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A 1986 unilateral agreement appears to allow Turtle Bay Resort to add 3,500 hotel room and condominium units. This would involve building two hotels at Kawela Bay and three others nearby. To build on land zoned as agricultural, the owner of the 880-acre property, which includes the Turtle Bay Hotel and about half of Kawela Bay, also agreed to:

  • Open 26 acres of beachfront, from Kawela Bay's midpoint to Kahuku Point.

  • Establish a 100-foot shoreline easement for public use along the entire length of the resort project.

  • Provide five public rights of way to beaches in the development, with 18 or more parking stalls, showers and restrooms at each.

  • Create four public parks totaling 50 acres within the development area.

  • Establish job training and employee transportation programs.

  • Create a childcare center within the area for children of employees.

  • Make highway improvements that include turning lanes and traffic lights.

  • Provide affordable housing equal to 10 percent of the non-hotel units.

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    Part of the development pact hammered out 20 years ago for Kawela Bay and the adjacent Turtle Bay property includes public parks and affordable housing as well as hotels and resort condominiums. That’s all still part of the plan.

    GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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    Developers of the Turtle Bay Resort yesterday outlined plans for five new hotels with 3,500 rooms and condominium units that would transform the area.

    Officials with the Kuilima Resort Company said they plan:

  • Two hotels with a maximum total of 900 rooms to be built at Kawela Bay, a secluded cove adjacent to Turtle Bay;

  • A hotel on each side of the existing Turtle Bay Resort;

  • A fifth hotel near Kahuku Point.

    The current resort has one hotel, fewer than 500 units, and two golf courses.

    The new development would include four public parks and expanded public access to beaches.

    Until yesterday, resort officials had remained tight-lipped about expansion plans, which are based on a "unilateral agreement" hashed out two decades ago by developers, the city, the state, and members of the North Shore community. The resort is owned by a multibillion-dollar investment company, Oaktree Capital Management.

    The original agreement outlined a three-phase development, but officials yesterday said their plan is to develop the area all at once. The project still must receive city permits to go forward.

    To gain the zoning changes necessary to expand the resort, developers in 1986 agreed to numerous conditions and amenities to make the deal more acceptable to the community.

    The expansion of the 880-acre property, as envisioned 20 years ago, never occurred because of the financial struggles of the Japanese company that owned the resort at the time.

    The unilateral agreement, however, has no cutoff date, and remains in effect.

    "The unilateral agreement is our driving force," said Hy Adelman, redevelopment project director for KRC.

    Adelman said the company intends to fulfill all the provisions of that agreement, which was passed unanimously by the Honolulu City Council in April 1986. Those provisions include development of four public parks, shoreline access at five locations, public parking with restroom and shower facilities, road improvements, an employment training program, and a daycare center for employees' children, among other things.

    Last Thursday, Keith Kurahashi, president of Kusao & Kurahashi Inc., planning and zoning consultants for KRC, outlined the company's updated redevelopment plans to the Kahuku Community Association. Tomorrow night, he'll make a similar presentation to the Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board, and will later speak to other area groups.

    "The key to the approval (of the unilateral agreement) was the attempt to try to get more jobs and employment out in the area," Kurahashi said yesterday as he unfolded Turtle Bay development diagrams across a desk in his office in Manoa.

    One part of the agreement requires that 51 percent of the expansion units be hotel rooms.

    "What that meant is that of the 4,000 total units proposed for the site, including the 500 at the existing hotel, the minimum of the new units — 1,500 plus one — had to be hotel units. However, they allowed us to go as high as we wanted."

    So, if the final draft of the expansion plan calls for 2,500 hotel rooms, then 1,000 condominium-type units could be built to complete the total. Regardless of how many condominiums are built, "10 percent are required to be affordable housing units at 80 percent or below (of) median income," Kurahashi said. That means they must be affordable to people with that level of income.

    Adelman said the proposed number of hotel rooms versus condominium units is yet to be set. He stressed that right now the priority is on getting the infrastructure permits approved as soon as possible.

    The city Department of Planning and Permitting has deferred approval of the resort application for a subdivision permit until April 26.

    Department director Henry Eng has said he cannot comment on the expansion because the Unite Here Local 5 Union, which represents Turtle Bay workers and is involved in an ongoing dispute with the resort, has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the KRC from gaining development permits.

    Unlike the original master plan, which was a three-phase concept that could be stretched out over 20 years, Adelman said, this project would be completed in one phase and in less time.

    But he was reluctant to speculate on how long it would take to secure the necessary permits.

    "We would like to be able to entertain discussions on what's going to be built," he said. But, he said project specifics would remain undefined until KRC actually has the sites and roads and other aspects of the project approved.

    Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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