A year ago the lead investor backing the Hale Ali’i luxury condominium planned in Hawaii Kai promised a fresh start for the project, which had sunk into turmoil. Now a dramatically revised plan is being introduced to the public.
Hale Ali’i is being reborn as Hale Ka Lae.
But besides the name change, a lot of other things are different for the roughly $300 million project:
» Executives were replaced.
» New architectural plans were drawn.
» The footprint of the building and amenities was moved.
» A new sales center was built.
» Condo prices were reduced.
» An affordable housing agreement with the city is being revised.
» Legal threats against critics were retracted.
» Violations and fines for improper soil grading and archaeological monitoring were corrected.
» And a new archaeological preservation plan was set up.
"When we said fresh start, we meant fresh start," said Mike Greco, the project’s chief operating officer.
Elizabeth Reilly, a Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member who received one of the threatening letters from a law firm previously working with Hale Ali’i Development LLC, said the change has been refreshing.
"I have to say mountains have moved," Reilly said. "I would never have thought that this would be the case five years ago."
Greco said the reconstituted development firm, Hale Ka Lae LLC, hopes to begin construction in June on the 10-story complex with 242 units, and finish two years later.
A sales effort will be relaunched Saturday, with unit prices from $685,265 to $3.4 million.
The prices compare with $1.3 million to $3.7 million previously. Some smaller, one-bedroom units were added, but Greco said the level of luxury amenities and fixtures has not diminished.
Features include a private dining and wine-tasting room, electric vehicle charging stations, a golf simulator, a theater, pools and a fitness center.
Details of an affordable housing contribution are still being worked out with the city, but Greco said the city will allow the units to be built concurrently on another site in Hawaii Kai.
Greco said three potential sites are being considered, and that he anticipates a choice will be made by mid-April to allow construction to proceed and be completed in early 2013.
The number of affordable housing units has yet to be agreed upon. The city previously insisted on about 150 units after the expiration of a previous agreement that required only about 70 units if they were built by 2005.
Another major challenge for the project previously had been the treatment of petroglyphs and other archeological features on part of the property.
Under Greco’s leadership, an agreement has been reached for the Trust for Public Land to purchase and maintain a 5-acre portion of the site as a cultural preserve.
Previously, parts of the property — which excluded several petroglyphs but included an old well, remnants of a coconut grove and other features some preservationists consider part of a heiau complex — were to be destroyed to make way for a private landscaped park with features including lagoon-style waterways, floating cabanas and a sand-edged pool.
The old plan raised major concerns from some community members and cultural preservationists, especially when grading began on part of the 5-acre parcel without proper approvals, including an archaeological monitoring plan.
Local developer Mike Klein initiated Hale Ali’i close to seven years ago and was the project’s main driving force. Greco said Klein is no longer involved with the project.
South Korean firm Hanwha Engineering & Construction, which became the main investor in 2009, installed Greco last year to revamp operations.
Last March, Greco, a former construction vice president with Chicago-based luxury developer Fifield Cos., apologized at a neighborhood board meeting and pledged better relations with the community and an improved project.
"The past is the past," he said in an interview yesterday. "All the past is basically cleaned up and we’re moving forward."