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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 30, 2009

Luxury complex debuts in Kapalua


By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences at Kapalua includes 84 fee-simple condos and 62 units being sold as "fractional ownership" condos.

ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | 2008

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The $355 million luxury timeshare and condominium complex Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences at Kapalua Bay on Maui opens today, three years after demolition of the Kapalua Bay Hotel made way for the ambitious project.

Completion of the oceanfront complex at Kapalua Resort had been threatened when a major lender collapsed late last year, but emergency advances followed by replacement financing in February enabled the plan to come to fruition without a delay.

"We are delighted to welcome this stunning new property to Kapalua Resort's portfolio of luxury living," said Ryan Churchill, senior vice president of lead project investor Maui Land & Pineapple Co.

The project on 24 acres added nine buildings three to six stories high comprising 84 fee-simple condos, and 62 units being sold as "fractional ownership" condos essentially a longer-term version of timeshare in which each unit is shared by 12 buyers who each get three weeks of annual use.

The Ritz-Carlton project was the first to introduce fractional ownership resort condo development in Hawai'i, at least on a large scale.

The depressed real estate market and economic recession have hindered the pace of sales that started strong three years ago, but Maui Land and Ritz-Carlton said the property continues to attract an impressive number of buyers.

"It's challenging times out there, and we've been incredibly fortunate," said project director Jenny Ochtera, who is in charge of sales and marketing at the property for Ritz-Carlton.

To date, there have been 267 sales of fractional interests, which range in price from $350,000 to $850,000.

The sales represent 36 percent of 744 intervals in the project. (Ritz-Carlton sells 12 three-week intervals per unit, reserving 16 weeks a year mostly for use by members at additional cost.)

Many of the sales, which began in June 2006, were made before the real estate and economic slowdown hit last year. But Ochtera said 25 sales were made in the first three months of this year, which is unprecedented among other Ritz-Carlton Club properties. "We are a pleasant anomaly," she said.

Timeshare units range in size from 1,912 square feet to 2,257 square feet with two or three bedrooms, and come with annual maintenance and service fees of about $17,000 to $19,000.

Of the 84 condos, 17 have sold. Prices range from $3.9 million to $9.8 million.

The condos range in size from 3,002 square feet to 4,271 square feet with three or four bedrooms, and include private elevators and 180-degree ocean views of Moloka'i and Lana'i.

Project development partner Exclusive Resorts LLC has also bought 15 condos, though the company had initially agreed to buy 28 condos.

Denver-based Exclusive Resorts, which is majority owned by Hawai'i-born AOL founder Steve Case, who also is the largest shareholder of Maui Land, operates a club for members who pay a one-time fee and annual dues for use of luxury residences around the world.

It was unclear whether Exclusive Resorts plans to buy additional condos, all of which have been completed.

For the developer, the project hasn't performed as expected due to the economic downturn. In March, Maui Land took a $45.3 million charge against earnings related to reducing the value of its investment in the project.

Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences was developed by Kapalua Bay LLC, which is 51 percent owned by Maui Land, 34 percent owned by Ritz-Carlton, a unit of Marriott International, and 15 percent owned by Exclusive Resorts.

Ochtera said the first condo owners are expected to arrive in late June, and an initial group of 12 fractional club members will be the first occupants of the timeshare units.

Amenities on the property include a private beach club, and a lagoon-style pool with a bar and grill. A second bar is near the water's edge. A 30,000-square-foot spa is slated for completion June 20. A Maui-themed general store is also expected to open soon.

Douglas Kahikina Chang, general manager of the property, said the start-up of operations is employing nearly 100 people, and that the job count should rise by 15 to 20 by the end of the year as occupancy increases.

"Many local businesses are going to benefit from us, especially our local farms," he said.

Three years ago, 270 employees were laid off when the 196-room Kapalua Bay hotel was closed. At the time, Ritz-Carlton anticipated the replacement project would create 263 jobs. It is unclear whether the job count is still expected to rise that high. Maui Land said the spa and beach club should employ about 50 people, while another 75 off-site jobs will be created.