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A&B buys Kakaako tower site

Andrew Gomes
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The vacant lot, above, on Waimanu Street at the intersection of Pensacola Street is one of two properties bought by Alexander & Baldwin.
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The other is a building on Kona Street at the corner of Piikoi Street.

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. has bought undeveloped land in Kakaako approved long ago for a high-rise condominium, and plans to build a 40-story residential tower in 2012.

The company, through its real estate development affiliate A&B Properties Inc., bought the site next to the existing Hawaiki and Ko’olani luxury condo towers for $16 million.

The seller was K2 Investors LLC, an affiliate of California-based development firm Woodridge Capital LLC that planned a 400-foot luxury residential building on the site.

A&B also acquired a smaller nearby site previously envisioned by K2 for an eight-story residential building with moderately priced units that would have satisfied a state affordable-housing requirement.

Michael Wright, A&B Properties executive vice president, said the company believes it’s a good time to prepare for the next upswing in urban Honolulu’s housing market. "We feel good about the market improving," he said. "We really like the location."

Wright said A&B is aiming for a broad market segment with units priced below the $1 million luxury level, perhaps in the range of $600,000 to $900,000. If design and planning work proceed as expected, unit pre-sales could begin as early as the third quarter of 2011, he said.

Honolulu-based A&B is pursuing what would be the fourth condo tower plan for the site by as many owners.

The 1.7-acre main site was once part of a 17-acre parcel known as 404 Piikoi on which an investment trust of the South Pacific republic of Nauru gained state approval in 1984 to build five towers.

The trust, Nauru Phosphate Royalties (Honolulu) Development Inc., built the luxury Nauru Tower in 1991, and largely satisfied an affordable-housing requirement by completing the moderately priced tower 1133 Waimanu in 1996.

Nauru Phosphate also had begun building Hawaiki in 1993, but Hawaii’s real estate downturn at the time stalled construction. After Hawaiki was completed in 1999, only 43 percent of its units were sold.

Under financial pressure, Nauru Phosphate sold the remaining two tower sites in 2003 to Miami-based developer Crescent Heights, which completed Ko’olani in 2006.

Crescent Heights advanced plans for the last tower, which it dubbed Ko’olua, but abandoned the project and sold the site to K2 in early 2007 for about $23 million.

K2 officials said they weren’t deterred by what at the time was weakening demand for luxury condos in Honolulu, and expected to start construction on a 295-unit tower in 2008 along with 64 moderately priced units on the smaller parcel nearby. The company secured approvals from the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency regulating development in Kakaako, but didn’t progress with sales or construction.

A&B’s development history in Kakaako includes completing the Keola La’i high-rise on South Street in 2008 and investing in the luxury Hokua tower that is next to Nauru Tower and was developed by local firms the MacNaughton Group and Kobayashi Group in 2005. A&B also proposed building three condo towers on state land makai of Ala Moana Boulevard just Ewa of Kewalo Basin, but the Legislature killed that plan in 2006.


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