Moderate-priced units proposed for Kakaako

Honolulu is accustomed to housing booms — especially for luxury condominiums in the urban core. But a workforce housing boom may now be forming.

A developer has proposed a 217-unit workforce, or moderate-priced, condo tower in Kakaako on a roughly half-acre site now occupied by single-story industrial buildings.

A developer is proposing to demolish the single-story industrial buildings on a half-acre site between Kawai­ahao and Waimanu streets and build a 250-foot condo tower. Pictured is L&L Transmission at 803 Wai­manu St.

A developer is proposing to demolish the single-story industrial buildings on a half-acre site between Kawai­ahao and Waimanu streets and build a 250-foot condo tower. Pictured is L&L Transmission at 803 Wai­manu St.

MJF Development Corp., led by Franco Mola, is seeking a permit from the Hawaii Community Development Authority to develop the 27-story project, which would rise 250 feet.

Mola’s project application was filed last month shortly before the sellout of a 635-unit workforce condo tower called 801 South St. on a site nearby that is slated to be further developed with a second tower containing 400 units.

The Mola project and 801 South St. are products of a relatively new HCDA “workforce housing” rule giving developers extra density for buildings with at least 75 percent of units priced for buyers earning no more than 140 percent of Hono­lulu’s median income.

The income limit translates to about $96,000 for a single person or $137,000 for a family of four.

Other projects for workforce rentals in Kakaako are also in the pipeline, including the 204-unit Hale­kau­wila Place apartments that began construction earlier this year, the proposed 690 Pohu­kaina project calling for 804 apartments on state land, and 80 live/work lofts for artists.

Those three projects propose rents that would be affordable to tenants earning 50 percent to 140 percent of the median income.

HCDA, the state agency governing development in Kakaako, also requires that 20 percent of units in higher-priced condo tower projects be priced at the workforce level, and there are at least two such projects in the works.

Chuck Wathen, an affordable-housing advocate and executive director of Hawaii Housing Alliance, isn’t surprised by the rising volume of moderate-priced housing being proposed in Kakaako.

“We really need rentals, and … the supply of units for sale is almost nothing,” he said.

Wathen predicts that Mola’s project, if it comes to market, will almost certainly sell out. “We are basically supply-constrained,” he said.

Of all the workforce condo plans, 801 South St. is positioned to break ground first, in June.

Mola’s project is subject to HCDA approval. The agency has scheduled two public hearings on the plan.

The first hearing is slated for May 1 at 9 a.m. and will include a presentation by the developer. The agency will host a second public hearing June 5 at 9 a.m., after which a decision on the application is expected by the agency’s board. Both hearings will be held at HCDA offices at 461 Cooke St.

The property borders Kawai­ahao Street and the Ewa end of Wai­manu Street between the Imperial Plaza tower and a self-storage facility.

A company named Action Development LLC, managed by Francine Summers and Byron Ho, is listed as the property’s owner. That firm bought the parcels in 2007 for $3.9 million, according to property records.

Mola could not be reached for comment Tuesday, when HCDA announced the public hearing schedule.

The developer is proposing a mix of units from studios with 372 square feet of living space to two-bedroom units with a little more than 600 square feet, according to application details. Unit prices were not specified.

Mola, through companies including Coastal Rim Properties Inc., has been involved in development mainly in California and Hawaii, including the 176-unit affordable senior apartment building Kulana Hale in Hono­lulu.

Coastal Rim’s website says Mola has overseen planning and construction of more than 4,300 homes.

The developer previously had an option to buy the 801 South St. site, but that purchase fell through, and local affordable-housing developer Marshall Hung acquired the property and launched plans for two workforce housing towers.

Article courtesy of the Honolulu Star Advertiser, written By Andrew Gomes and POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 03, 2013

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