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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pacifica condo line forming

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Michelangelo Smith came prepared with a portable power supply to keep his laptop and cell phone topped off as he waited in line yesterday in the Honolulu Design Center garage for Pacifica condo sales that begin today.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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At about 5 a.m. on Thursday, a few people began lining up in the parking garage of the Honolulu Design Center furniture gallery. But it wasn't a furniture sale that attracted the group, which by yesterday afternoon had grown to almost 50 people.

The campers in the garage came to buy units in Pacifica, a recently restarted residential high-rise project nearby at 1009 Kapi'olani Blvd.

Sales for most units in the 489-unit tower are slated to begin today at 10 a.m. in an area set up inside the sprawling furniture gallery.

People spending a day or two on lawn chairs and mats on a concrete floor is another sign that more life is returning to the local residential real estate market that sputtered over the past couple of years.

Since the latter part of last year, the number of sales of previously owned homes on O'ahu has been on the rise, and prices appear to be slowly firming up.

To be sure, the camp-out for Pacifica wasn't close to the turnout that some projects experienced several years ago, when hundreds of prospective buyers outnumbered available units at various condo tower projects around Honolulu. Still, the gathering was a pleasant sight for the local real estate industry.

"People are still looking to buy," said Kiki King, an agent with Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties who snagged a place in line Thursday evening for three clients.

"They're not making any new buildings," added Dean Hanzawa, who was holding a spot for his nephew, a Honolulu Police Department crime lab employee who hopes to become a first-time homeowner.

Dan Nishikawa, director of development for Pacifica developer OliverMcMillan, said he was pleased by the turnout.

OliverMcMillan, a San Diego-based firm, acquired the stalled project makai of McKinley High School from original developer KC Rainbow II LLC in October by paying off a $29.5 million lien filed against the property by general contractor Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co.

KC Rainbow had invested about $65 million in the project previously known as Moana Vista, but ran into trouble in late 2008 after a roughly $100 million construction loan needed to finish the 46-story tower was withheld because too many buyers canceled nonbinding reservations for units.

The derailing of Moana Vista was dramatic considering that 466 people had competed to buy 192 units reserved for owner-occupants at a lottery in May 2006 near the height of the recent real estate boom. Investor demand was also strong for remaining units, but later withered.

OliverMcMillan got favorable deals in acquiring the project and negotiating a new construction contract, which the firm said has allowed it to create better value for buyers.

The company added new amenities, including fitness and party pavilions, two theaters and upgraded interior finishes to the project. It also redrew floor plans to add one- and three-bedroom units to the building previously designed with only two-bedroom units.

OliverMcMillan made some units bigger and some smaller, in the range of 661 to 1,811 square feet, compared with 728 to 1,268 square feet as Moana Vista.

Prices also were broadened, and now range from $385,000 to $1.2 million, compared with about $425,000 to $850,000 previously.

Today, about 265 units go on sale through brokerage firm Heyer & Associates LLC. Buyers are required to make a 5 percent deposit and sign a purchase contract.

Last month, OliverMcMillan gave first priority for buying Pacifica units to 143 people who were committed to purchasing a unit before Moana Vista was canceled.

Of the 143, OliverMcMillan said, it retained about 100 buyers.

"We are grateful for the patience and continued support of those buyers and believe that this is an indication of the strength of this project in the Honolulu market," said Morgan Dene Oliver, OliverMcMillan's CEO.

Another 124 units will be offered for sale at a later date under a state affordable hous-ing program that places restrictions on buyer incomes, unit resale terms and prices.

OliverMcMillan expects to resume major construction on the tower in April.