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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

Affordable condos planned in Waipahu

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

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More than 150 average O'ahu wage earners could have a shot at buying new affordably priced condominiums under a $62 million private development proposal on state land in Waipahu.

The project, Plantation Town Apartments, involves building and selling 165 one- to three-bedroom units in two midrise buildings for $134,000 to $295,000 later this year for delivery late next year.

If the project receives necessary permits, it would be a small step toward resolving a critical affordable housing need that a legislative task force recently estimated will swell to 32,580 units on O'ahu for sale or rent by 2009.

But the community could raise concerns over the scale of the plan, which as envisioned would create the second-tallest structures in Waipahu after the Waipahu Sugar Mill smokestack.

Local developer Plantation Town Apartments LLC was recently selected by the Housing & Community Development Corp. of Hawai'i for the project.

According to a report by the developer, Plantation Town's target market are singles, young couples and families earning 80 percent to 120 percent of the statewide median income, which for a family of four would be $54,000 to $81,000.

"This is a great opportunity for people ... really the work force," said Laura E. Thielen, executive director of the nonprofit Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance.

A more dire need for affordable housing serving lower-income residents exists, according to Thielen, but she said projects like Plantation Town could free up housing in the tight affordable rental market. "It's all part of the puzzle," she said. "We need housing at all different levels of the income scale."

Estimated prices for the Plantation Town project compare with more than $400,000 for typical new condos being sold at mostly glass-sided towers in urban Honolulu, or similarly priced townhomes or single-family homes in Central and Leeward O'ahu.

A few other projects are planned with affordable for-sale homes, including 228 townhomes Castle & Cooke plans to sell late next year on state land in Kapolei for an estimated $315,000 to $370,000.

Cost of ownership at Plantation Town would be among the lowest fee-simple housing options on O'ahu, where half of all used condos sold for more than $315,000 last month.

The project, on six vacant acres of state land 'ewa of Waipahu Field, is part of the Housing & Community Development Corp.'s master-planned Kau'olu community.

Kau'olu, spread over 23 acres, was largely developed from 1993 to 2003 with the Waipahu Civic Center, Waipahu Library, Kamalu and Ho'olulu elderly housing projects, the Hale Kuhao assisted-living facility, and a health and childcare facility, according to a report by the developer.

Last year, the agency issued a request for proposals to develop the largest remaining vacant piece of land at Kau'olu. Plantation Town Apartments LLC, headed by Michael Kimura, was selected over one competing respondent, said agency spokesman Derick Dahilig.

Under the arrangement with the state, the Plantation Town developer would buy about three acres of the 6-acre site. The developer would lease another three acres for parking.

State financing is not part of the project, which the developer intends to finance with help from bank lenders.

Kimura could not be reached for comment yesterday. According to a draft environmental assessment the developer filed with the state, Plantation Town amenities would include a private 30,775-square-foot park, a picnic area, tot lot and recreation/meeting room. Part of the property would be set aside for a vegetable garden.

Condo units would range from 418 square feet to 724 square feet with one to three bedrooms and one bathroom, including 16 meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards, in two 12-story buildings.

Building height, at 104 feet, would be the tallest structures in Waipahu after the 174-foot-tall Waipahu Sugar Mill smokestack if built as planned. The developer is requesting a height exemption to allow the buildings to exceed a state 80-foot height limit that already pre-empts a 25-foot height limit under city zoning.

George Yakowenko, Waipahu Neighborhood Board chairman, reserved comment on the project until the board is briefed by the developer, which is to happen at the board's March 23 meeting. But he said the community in general is concerned about tall buildings.

At a January Neighborhood Board meeting, state Sen. Brian Kanno, D-19th (Kapolei, Maka-kilo), questioned the suitability of a nearby site for a planned 71-foot-high condo with 2-bedroom units priced at $275,000.

If Plantation Town proceeds as planned, construction could start between July and September, and conclude late next year.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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