Planning commission OKs Kahului warehouse

WAILUKU – Maui Planning Commission members approved Tuesday a special management area permit for HFM Maui to build a 45,000-square-foot warehouse at 120 Kane St. in Kahului on the 2.5-acre former site of Maui Land & Pineapple’s administrative and corporate offices.

Early last year, the ML&P administrative and corporate offices – on property between Maui Electric Co.’s Kahului offices and baseyard facilities and the Kahului Foodland store – were demolished, leaving a vacant lot, except for a wall (which will be incorporated into the warehouse structure) and a former ML&P human resources office (which will be torn down), commission members were told.

The new warehouse would be designed “from the ground up” as a 45-foot-high food warehouse with areas designed to have state-of-the-art freezer, refrigerated and dry goods storage, said planning consultant Dean Frampton of Frampton & Ward. It would replace leased facilities in two retrofitted Eha Street warehouses in the Wailuku Industrial Park.

Frampton said that the Eha Street facilities present “operational challenges” for HFM, a wholesale food distributor in Hawaii, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Those challenges include a lack of enough space in the two warehouses, insufficient parking and the need to transport goods on trucks or carts between the two facilities.

The project’s aim is to move out of the Eha facilities and into a new, high-quality warehouse, said Chris Labbe, president of Kerr Pacific Corp., which owns HFM FoodService Group.

“We want a facility that will show well for our customers, be pleasant to work in for our employees and allow us to grow on this island and also statewide,” Labbe said. “The Eha facility is old. It doesn’t show very well. It’s very inefficient. It’s very expensive to run, just because it’s just not up to the standards we’d like to set for not only the industry but the state for distributed food products . . . We see this as a step in building value for our customers, our employees and our shareholders.”

The warehouse project is targeted to open in mid to late 2014, or the beginning of 2015, at the latest, Labbe said.

The project calls for 40,000 square feet of food storage space and 5,000 square feet of office space in two stories. The warehouse would have an enclosed loading dock area, which would keep it out of the public’s view as well as help keep cool air within the building. For energy efficiency, 80 percent of the top of the building will have roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, providing 500,000 kilowatts of power, Frampton said.

The building’s exterior would have a light, sandstone color designed to reflect light and keep the building cool. Also, an 8-inch waterline will be installed for fire safety, and drainage will be upgraded, Frampton said.

Big delivery trucks will avoid peak morning rush-hour traffic from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. by leaving the facility between 5 and 6 a.m., he added. Trucks are expected to return around 2:30 p.m., he said.

One of the planning commission’s main concerns was the routes taken by large delivery trucks.

If large delivery trucks leave the Kane Street property and turn right early in the morning, they’ll be an early-morning nuisance for Kahului residents living near the Kane Street-Kamehameha Avenue intersection, said commission Chairman Kent Hiranaga.

He sought an assurance from HFM that drivers would turn left and use the larger Kaahumanu Avenue-Kane Street intersection with traffic signals. When he heard it was the company’s “intent” to do so, that didn’t satisfy him, and he suggested adding a condition to the company’s special management area permit to require avoidance of the Kane Street-Kamehameha Avenue intersection.

When asked how that could be enforced, Hiranaga said it would be company policy for employees to follow or risk termination.

Frampton said that HFM could require its employees to do that but not vendors or others using the facility.

An amendment to require use of the Kaahumanu Avenue-Kane Street intersection failed, with a majority of commission members expressing satisfaction with HFM’s commitment to keep its drivers away from the Kane Street-Kamehameha Avenue intersection, which currently does not have a traffic signal.

However, county Department of Public Works Deputy Director Rowena Dagdag-Andaya told commission members that the county has plans to install traffic signals at that intersection in December.

HFM, once known as Hawaiian Flour Mill, is owned by Portland, Ore.-based Kerr Pacific Corp., which was established in 1892 in the Pacific Northwest by the Kerr family, according to the company’s website.

Originally, the company operated flour mills in Honolulu. It became HFM FoodService when it moved to a different, larger location and branched out into distributing other foods. In 2004, the company purchased MORRAD FoodService on Maui and retained MORRAD as an independent division of HFM Food Service.

HFM purchased the Kahului property from ML&P in 2010.

* Brian Perry can be reached at