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Big Isle project heads for auction

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  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2005
    This is an artist's rendering of the interior of a planned single-family home in the Ke Kailani luxury residential subdivision on the Big Island. This model features the Chef Alan Wong Signature Kitchen, at left. Unsold pieces of the project at Mauna Lani Resort are scheduled for a Nov. 18 foreclosure auction.

Michael Fuchs had many hits as a former chief executive of HBO, but his dabbling in Hawaii real estate development appears headed for a bad ending.

Unsold pieces of the Ke Kailani luxury residential subdivision developed by Fuchs at Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island are scheduled for a Nov. 18 foreclosure auction.

Three local lenders, led by Bank of Hawaii, claim that Fuchs defaulted on $52 million in loans he took out to develop the project featuring 39 single-family home lots and 12 condominiums mostly fronting three golf fairways of Mauna Lani’s South Course.

The planned auction involves 25 single-family home lots, land planned for eight condominium units and two completed condo units — all of which are being offered in bulk, not separately.

Fuchs, a New York resident, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Will Beaton, a local real estate development veteran retained by Fuchs to head the project, did not return calls yesterday.

Ke Kailani grew out of a pursuit by Fuchs, who headed HBO for more than a decade until 1995, to build himself a vacation home.

Beaton, in a 2005 Honolulu Advertiser interview, said Fuchs was attracted to the last piece of undeveloped oceanfront land at Mauna Lani: a 65-acre parcel of rugged lava that stretched far inland.

Fuchs intended to carve out an oceanfront estate for himself on the site and develop other lots for sale to help pay for the hefty cost of the land and infrastructure.

Beaton estimated the subdivision would cost $100 million.

According to property records, Fuchs paid $15.5 million for the parcel in June 2002. Beaton began working for Fuchs in late 2003 and retained local design firm Group 70 International to develop a master plan.

The result was a low-density subdivision of 51 residences on a site Fuchs could have developed with up to 120 residences.

Ke Kailani features included a 5.5-acre inland park with a freshwater pond, pools, a hula mound, jogging trail and courts for basketball, tennis and sand volleyball. An oceanfront community clubhouse was built with a saltwater pool overlooking the ocean, outdoor entertainment pavilions, a kitchen and whirlpool spas.

House lots averaged about one acre, and the condo villas featured about 3,300 square feet of living space and signature kitchens designed by Hawaii celebrity chef Alan Wong.

Fuchs, in a statement in 2005, said he wanted to tread lightly on the land and build something special.

"For me, this is really a legacy project that I want to look back on and be proud of," he said. "I’m not a mainstream developer trying to maximize my profits."

Initially, the timing for the project looked great, with initial sales in late 2005 corresponding with a red-hot real estate market.

One oceanfront lot sold for $8.5 million in October 2005, according to property records.

Fuchs also built four condo villas, and sold two for close to $4 million each in 2007.

 But Ke Kailani soon faced the brunt of the economic recession that dramatically stifled sales of Hawaii vacation homes.

In all, Fuchs sold 14 lots and two condos for a combined $38 million, according to property records.

Loans that Fuchs took out in 2005 and 2006 with Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank and Finance Factors Ltd. matured in September 2008 and were extended three times, until July 2009.

The lenders filed their foreclosure lawsuit in October. They claim they were owed $22.2 million in principal on the loans as of Oct. 1, 2009.

According to the foreclosure suit, Fuchs helped finance the development as a junior lender, though the amount Fuchs contributed was not disclosed.

It does not appear that Fuchs ever built his own home at Ke Kailani.

Ricky Cassiday, a local real estate market researcher, said Ke Kailani is one of the most impressive subdivisions in the South Kohala area that includes Mauna Lani and Waikoloa resorts.

"It was very well planned and very well done," he said. "The market went away, putting them in a bind. When the market returns, it should do very well."

The Nov. 18 auction is scheduled for noon near the steps of First Circuit Court in Honolulu.

 

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