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Developer Pacrep LLC Plans Construction of 459-key
High-rise Condo-Hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii

By Andrew Gomes, The Honolulu Star-AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 24, 2012--Waikiki may soon see its first new high-rise hotel in more than three years.

A California developer plans to start construction on a 34-story tower with 459 condominium-hotel units at the corner of Kuhio Avenue and Kalaimoku Street as early as March.

The $275 million project is teed up to be the first new hotel built in Waikiki since Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk opened in late 2009, and would expand Hawaii's premier visitor destination, which is bursting with record numbers of tourists.

Developer Pacrep LLC published a draft environmental assessment with the state Monday, saying the project tentatively referred to as 2121 Kuhio Tower would create jobs and help house a growing number of tourists.

"There is a need for additional hotel product in Waikiki," the assessment said. "The project will provide additional lodging services to help Waikiki remain the state's largest and most popular visitor destination."

Pacrep is a Los Angeles-based firm that has ties to developing the Trump Waikiki tower, which also is a condo-hotel, or "condotel."

At a condotel, a developer sells individual rooms to investors, most of whom typically opt to rent the units to tourists and split proceeds with a management firm.

Pacrep estimates that unit sales for 2121 Kuhio will generate more than $300 million, translating to an average unit price of more than $654,000.

The developer also said the project would create 475 on-site jobs in its first full year and take two years to complete. After opening, the hotel is expected to employ a significant number of people and generate annual room revenue totaling $20 million to $30 million, the environmental assessment said.

The 2121 Kuhio hotel is a revised version of a previous development plan for the 1.4-acre property that was once home to landmark gay bar Hula's Bar & Lei Stand but has been vacant since the late 1990s.

Pacrep bought the site from another developer, K3 Owners LLC, which floated a plan in 2004 to build a 300-foot tower with 220 residential or time-share units, or 140 condo-hotel units and 120 residential units.

But K3's plan fizzled amid financial and real estate market troubles that began around the time of the project's anticipated launch in 2007 or 2008.

K3 completed its environmental assessment in 2006 and won an endorsement from the Waikiki Neighborhood Board in a 10-4 vote that same year.

Besides the makeup of tower units, Pacrep's plan is also significantly different from K3's by the tower's height and orientation.

Pacrep is seeking to exceed the site's 300-foot height limit by 50 feet. The broad side of the tower also faces mauka-makai, which represents a roughly 90-degree turn from K3's plan.

The city eased the rules on exceeding height restrictions in December in an overhaul of Waikiki Special District development rules. Pacrep will only need to get a resolution approved by the City Council to move ahead with the 350-foot tower. The approval process previously would have been more difficult.

Building heights vary throughout Waikiki, ranging from 25 to 350 feet. Among taller buildings are the Sheraton Waikiki (315 feet), Trump Waikiki (350 feet), some towers at Hilton Hawaiian Village (350 feet) and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki (364 feet).

The Waikiki Neighborhood Board hasn't taken a vote on whether to support Pacrep's planned tower. The developer made a presentation to the board in May, but a vote was deferred until Pacrep could discuss the building's orientation with immediate neighbors.

Several condos on Kuhio across from the Pacrep site -- including the 25-story Four Paddle and 23-story La Casa -- would face the long side of the planned tower, which concerns neighbors.

Robert Finley, neighborhood board chairman, said some neighbors say their ocean views would disappear completely. Those neighbors hope Pacrep will be open to compromise.

According to board meeting minutes, it is unlikely that Pacrep will change the building orientation, which the developer indicated is intended to maximize the view of Diamond Head from the street and maximize the street-level atmosphere of the building.

Finley, who doesn't live across from the Pacrep site, said he'd like to see new development on the Ewa end of Waikiki but is also concerned about the impact on views. "I'm kind of torn on this one," he said.

Casey Federman, a Pacrep principal and managing director with the Irongate Capital firm, which developed Trump Waikiki, said in a statement that the building's design went through extensive study and best complements the geometry and constraints of the site. "It maximizes public views and generally provides the most attractive addition to the Waikiki skyline," he said.

If the 2121 Kuhio hotel tower is developed as planned, it would likely be completed before other Waikiki high-rise hotels in the works, which include a condotel/residential tower at the Princess Kaiulani and a hotel/residential tower adjoining the historic Moana Surfrider. Those projects are tied up in a permitting challenge. Hilton Hawaiian Village has plans to build two time-share towers.

Pacrep said the trend for Waikiki hotel room inventory has been declining in recent years with conversion of the Ohana Hobron hotel into a residential condominium and development of Waikiki Beach Walk, which took out hotel rooms to make room for retail. Other declines are expected from the redevelopment of International Market Place that includes the Miramar Hotel, and a net loss of rooms for the Princess Kaiulani.


(c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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