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Wednesday, September 17, 2014         

CENTRAL OAHU: MILILANI MAUKA


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Going up mauka side

Two parcels long left vacant are being developed, one by Longs and one as housing for senior citizens

By Kristen Consillio

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After more than two decades of unuse amid the suburbs of Mililani Mauka, two major parcels of land are closer to being developed.

Near the entrance of Mililani Mauka on a 1.9-acre site next to a McDonald's restaurant, a gas station and convenience mart, Longs Drug Stores is well under way in building its fifth Hawaii location with a drive-through pharmacy.

The Longs store, designed to be 23,000 square feet and include a two-lane drive-through for pharmacy orders, is expected to open next summer.

Longs owner CVS Caremark Corp. bought the parcel from Mililani's master developer Castle & Cooke Hawaii, which has an option to build up to 30,000 square feet of retail space that would expand the tenant mix on the site at the corner of Meheula Parkway and Ainamakua Drive.

Rock Tang, regional director of real estate for CVS Caremark, said Longs will have approximately 50 stores in Hawaii by the end of 2012.

"We found, based upon our market research, that there was a need for pharmacy services in Mauka," he said. "We're responding to customer interest; certainly there are a lot of folks very excited to have Longs in that community."

That parcel, zoned for commercial use, has been vacant for more than 20 years because of the lack of interest among small retail tenants, according to Carleton Ching, Castle & Cooke's vice president of community and government relations.

"Any time you have a large store like Longs it's an attraction — it's a magnet for other smaller retailers and vendors to venture up there," he said.

MEHEULA VISTA

A separate tract of land that also has been undeveloped for more than two decades is moving closer to being developed as an affordable housing project for seniors called Meheula Vista.

Local affordable housing developer Gary Furuta won conditional support in February from Mililani Mauka's neighborhood board to build rental housing for seniors with a recommendation that the project include a height reduction.

Community representatives staunchly opposed more homes — 301 units spread over four buildings each featuring two-story and three-story wings — being built in the already tight suburban development.

Conditions tied to the board's support include limiting the project to two stories and adding a traffic light at the intersection of Meheula Parkway and Kuaoa Street.

The Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corp., a state agency that facilitates affordable housing development, has approved lending $9.7 million to Furuta to buy the land and pay for design work. The agency is reviewing the developer's affordable housing application and is expected to forward its recommendation to the City Council by the end of July or early August, according to Keith Kurahashi, a Meheula Vista consultant with planning firm Kusao & Kurahashi Inc. The developer intends to seek additional agency funding for construction.

The City Council will hold public meetings on the project.

The project site was originally slated by Castle & Cooke for commercial use and a nonprofit performing arts center. But Castle & Cooke, which drew up the master plan for Mililani Mauka, said businesses weren't interested in the 7.5-acre site and that the Oahu Arts Center failed to meet a deadline to demonstrate it had the financial means to build and operate a facility, though the nonprofit disputes this claim.

Furuta partnered with Catholic Charities Hawaii, which would own and manage the housing project for a minimum of 60 years for seniors earning no more than 60 percent of Oahu's median income.

Andrew Gomes contributed to this report.






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