BY RON ELAND
North Hawaii News
If you ask Waikoloa Village residents what additions they’d like to see most in their community, mamy would say more amenities — especially in the way of additional stores and restaurants.
If all goes as planned, residents may get their wish within the next few years.
During a community meeting last week, about 35 residents came out to discuss a proposed commercial project which will also benefit the county, and thus, area residents. Hawaiian Riverbend LLC is proposing a 33-acre development at the corner of Paniolo Avenue and Waikoloa Road. More than 14 acres would be used for commercial development, nearly 11 acres will be deeded to the county (during the conveyance process) while use for the remaining six acres has yet to be determined.
Sid Fuke, the project’s property manager, said that in 2005, Waikoloa Mauka purchased hundreds of undeveloped acres around the Village from Waikoloa Land Company. Some of that land was sold to Metric Pasco which planned a large commercial development between the post office and fire station. However, once the economy took a turn for the worse, so did the project. The company has been trying to sell that land ever since.
Hawaiian Riverbend purchased the land earlier this year from Waikoloa Mauka, which had to set aside land per the requirements with the county if any development were to be completed. In exchange for the 11 acres which will be given to the county, Hawaiian Riverbend will receive 11 acres of land across Waikoloa Road near the intersection, adjacent to the post office.
“Hawaiian Riverbend, LLC believes that the commercial infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth of Waikoloa Village,” Fuke said after the meeting in regard to why the owners chose the Village. “By providing much needed commercial pads for lease or purchase, it creates a more favorable environment and opportunity for businesses to build and invest in the community.”
Those in attendance got to see a conceptual drawing (the same one used with this article) as to what the development may look like. In regard to the commercial space, it shows three anchors, the largest of which is nearly 20,000 square feet and the remaining two nearly 15,000 square feet. There is also space for smaller businesses in a strip mall fashion and more than 200 parking spaces.
One of the first questions asked of Fuke was if he knew of any potential tenants to which he answered, “I don’t know who they may be — I wish I did.” He also said there is “a lot of room to massage” the conceptual design. And, the developers will be not be building the commercial space but instead will put in the pads on which the businesses can be built. Fuke said his clients are currently seeking potential tenants but added that they realize that may be difficult for now until the land is rezoned as well as the down economy.
“It’s an area across from another commercial property so it makes sense to me,” said councilman Pete Hoffmann who was unable to attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. “But I question whether now is the time to build and if businesses can survive with our current economic situation. But that’s not my call to make.”
The developer has already filed a request to subdivide the land. The next step will be the conveyance process which they hope to have completed by the end of the year. From there, they must file a zone change application from agricultural to commercial. During this time a traffic study will also be conducted. In all, Fuke said that if everything is approved, his clients hope to start construction by late 2013 or early 2014.
Hoffmann hopes the county will move even faster on its portion of the land which could include a gymnasium/evacuation center as well as a soccer and softball field.
“Once the land is deeded to the county, I hope that we would proceed with the project regardless of what the developer plans to do,” he said. “The county has been slow to recognize the needs of Waikoloa Village. I would hope that this administration would recognize the importance of this step and for it to react in an expeditious manner to provide the residents with a basic facility that every other community has and one that we don’t have.”
Hawaiian Riverbend will be responsible for an access road off Paniolo to the county facilities which will include a small bridge over an existing stream bed. If for some reason the county is prepared to build prior to the commercial property, the access road will have to be completed by then.
During a question and answer period, audience members expressed their concern regarding traffic issues — primarily turning left out of the complex onto Paniolo Avenue.
“People are supposed to drive 25 mph in that area but drive 45,” one person said.
Fuke said a traffic impact analysis will be required for the project and items like that will be taken into consideration. The project is expected to also have access off Waikoloa Road.
Rita Philips, who was not at the meeting but has lived in the Village for seven years, said she’s excited about the possibility of additional commercial space in the Village. But, she said won’t get too excited until construction begins.
“We got burned once before a few years back so many of us are a little gun-shy,” she said in regard to Metric Pasco. “I think it’s because there’s such a need here for retail and additional places to eat. I get tired of having to drive to Waimea or Kona for the basic necessities in life.”
Waikoloa Village general manager Jim Whillock echoed Phillips’ feelings following the meeting.
“Sometimes it’s a pain to live here,” he said. “Would we like to see a rendering plant or wake up and there be five McDonald’s here? No. What we want is sensible growth. Like many people here, I would like the ability to get a prescription filled, buy a shirt or maybe even go to the movies. Basically we want growth that makes sense.”
Whillock added, “As far as the residents of the Village go, there are two types — those who like the rural feel to the area and those who have daily needs which may be met thanks to additional businesses in the area.”