Pagoda Hotel owner buys Maui Beach

Peter Savio, owner of the Pagoda Hotel on Oahu, closed the purchase of the Maui Beach Hotel this month and plans to improve facilities while maintaining affordability and building a new hotel next door, he said this week.

The $33 million purchase also includes a vacant lot next to the hotel where the Maui Palms Hotel, built in 1953, once stood; the Elleair Maui Golf Club in Kihei and a vacant lot on the Big Island from Daio Paper Corp. of Japan. The golf course name has been changed to the Maui Nui Golf Club.

“I’m very, very pleased with the purchases we made,” Savio told The Maui News on Wednesday. “I think the hotel will make a great addition to the Pagoda collection. For all intents and purposes, the Maui Beach Hotel is the Pagoda of Maui.”

All 72 employees at the hotel will be retained, including workers at the Rainbow Terrace Restaurant, Maui Beach officials said. However, a private operator will be brought in to run the restaurant that is open for breakfast daily and dinner on Saturdays, Savio said.

“The restaurant has lost some of its appeal, so we have an offer out to what we believe is a very good operator,” he said. “We hope to have them signed in the next 30 days.”

Savio, 65, plans to keep room rates at the 147-room Maui Beach/Pagoda in the $150 to $200 range, while adding new furniture, a paint job and other minor upgrades. He said his strategy for the hotel will be similar to the one he implemented after buying the Pagoda about three years ago.

“We didn’t fire anyone. We went in with the idea that it’s a great property; let’s just refresh it,” he said. “I spent about $3 million in renovations on the Pagoda and now it’s doing extremely well. I’m hoping the people and visitors on Maui will do the same for the Maui Beach Hotel.

“We want to make it a nicer experience for local visitors – we’re not after the upscale tourist market.”

In addition to attracting local visitors, Savio is looking to reserve 10 to 20 rooms at the hotel for students at the nearby University of Hawaii Maui College.

“I’ve done this in my hotels in Waikiki, and it’s been very successful,” he said. “Students get a dorm room but also a weekly maid service. It sounds like an odd combination, but it actually works out very well.”

Savio is looking to build his own dormitory for UH-MC students and was eyeing the nearby Kulanaa’o Apartments, which was originally built as student housing for the college. However, the Kahului apartment complex was sold earlier this month, according to a deed filed with the state Bureau of Conveyances.

The deed dated July 11, transferred ownership of the property from Lono Street Properties LLC to Robert and Mark Day Co. LLC.

No terms were disclosed for the sale. Officials with Lono Street Properties declined to comment. The county valued the property and structures at $16.1 million.

Last year, the Maui Planning Commission granted an amendment to formally allow members of the public to rent units from the housing complex, which was originally only for UH-MC students. The former owners actually had been renting to nonstudents since the apartments opened in 2008 due to low demand and occupancy.

Savio said he still hopes to build a student dormitory on Maui, but his primary goal is to build a Pagoda-style hotel on each island. That includes another future hotel on the 8.6-acre site of the Maui Palms site. His vision is for a 150-room hotel there.

Upgrades to the buildings and grounds of the Kihei golf course will occur, as well as the possible addition of a snack shop, Savio said. The lighted driving range, currently under-used by local golfers, also will be upgraded, he added.

The Oahu developer has visited the Valley Isle many times over the years with his wife, Phyllis, a Maui native. He said the purchase is a sort of homecoming for both of them.

“I can assure you, we’ll be coming over all the time,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at