Marketplace improvement a lift for A&B condo project

With island housing prices recovering from a recession-induced slide for the past few years, A&B Properties’ 103-unit ‘Aina O Kane condominium development in Kahului is gaining traction.

The project originally approved in 2005 was conceived as a mixed-use development – two- and three-bedroom apartments on top and 22,000 square feet of commercial space below. Located on 3.9 acres off Kane and Vevau streets and between the Kahului Public Library and the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, the condominium was A&B’s first residential offering as part of a master plan for redevelopment of Kahului town.

Plans call for living units on three floors in the five buildings. The ground-floor spaces in the buildings would be for offices and retail stores. (For a look at artist renderings of the project, go to

In the eight years since the project was originally approved, the Maui Planning Commission has granted four two-year time extensions on A&B’s special management area permit.

The latest such extension came Tuesday when the commission agreed by a 5-1 vote to waive a detailed review of the project and allow Planning Director Will Spence to grant the time extension administratively. The sole dissent came from commission member Penny Wakida, who said she wanted the commission to review the matter.

Last week, A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun said there were delays in getting regulatory approvals of the project. Traffic impact studies took some time to complete and gain approval, for example.

In 2009, A&B opened a sales information center for the project, and interested buyers took out reservations, he said. But those potential sales fell in the wake of the Great Recession, and the credit and housing markets tanked.

And, as it turned out, the market for the ‘Aina O Kane condominiums, Central Maui residents who were empty nesters looking to sell their homes and downsize, was very narrow, Chun said. When they couldn’t sell their homes, they had no money to buy, especially when lenders were not providing financing.

“There was no market for a project such as this,” he said.

Now, “we’re looking forward to improvement in the economy and the housing market,” Chun said.

However, A&B is rethinking the project’s commercial component, he said.

“Our assessment at this point,” he said, is that developing the project’s ground floor as a commercial area is “not the best use of space on this lot.”

“There’s a lot of retail coming into the marketplace in Central Maui,” he said.

A&B’s second-phase expansion of its Maui Business Park in Kahului, the Kehalani Village Center (the site of Maui’s newest Longs in Wailuku), the Safeway complex across the street from Baldwin High School and up-and-coming commercial inventory at Maui Lani were all cited by Chun as Central Maui projects that will vie for consumer dollars in the near future.

“What we’re doing now is a reassessment of our plan . . . to put together the best possible product for the marketplace at this time,” he said.

Chun did not give a timetable for the project’s groundbreaking, but he said A&B would work toward gaining all the necessary government permits needed to get it started.

A&B’s plans to move ahead with its Kahului condominium project come as the island’s real estate market is rising after bottoming out and home and condominium inventories are at or near all-time lows.

As of Aug. 10, Maui County had 785 condominium units available for sale, 130 less than a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of Maui.

As of the end of July, the median selling price of a condominium in Maui County was $370,000. A year earlier, the price was $322,000. In Central Maui, where 18 condos sold in July, the median price was $219,000, which was $136,990 less than the area’s median price of $355,990 a year earlier.

* Brian Perry can be reached at