WAILUKU - Safeway will be anchor tenant of the Maui Lani Center, across Kaahumanu Avenue from Baldwin High School, the largest grocery retailer in North America announced Wednesday.
Safeway said it hoped to break ground this fall, with construction expected to take about a year and the 60,000-square-foot supermarket is scheduled to open in the winter of 2012.
But first the shopping center developer, HRT Ltd., must address a challenge filed in 2nd Circuit Court by Wailuku resident Claire Apana, who maintains that the project has not taken adequate steps to safeguard Native Hawaiian burials on the property's 13 acres - now surrounded by a dust fence.
Wailuku resident Claire Apana points out where a new 60,000-square-foot Safeway store would be located on a 13-acre property across from Baldwin High School and adjacent to Kaahumanu Avenue.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
On Wednesday, Apana said her legal challenge is unresolved and she would be seeking a court date for a hearing.
"I am proceeding," she said. "There are rights of Hawaiian people that need to be protected, and obviously the (Maui) Planning Commission and Planning Department have shown deficiencies in the way they are protecting those rights."
Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean confirmed that there is a pending lawsuit against the county involving the project and said the development would not move forward with permitting and construction until the lawsuit is resolved.
A response to the merits of Apana's complaint was not immediately available Wednesday, McLean said.
Attempts to reach HRT Ltd., a subsidiary of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Trust, by phone were unsuccessful Wednesday. Messages were not returned.
An official with the State Historic Preservation Division on Maui said treatment plans for previously known and identified or inadvertent discoveries of burials have already been approved for the Maui Lani Center project.
According to earlier reports on the project, hundreds of burials have been found by archaeological surveys of the property, and because the land is sandy dunes, further excavations could find more.
In a visit to the property Wednesday, Apana was adamant that the property is well known to be a traditional Native Hawaiian burial site dense with iwi, or the bones of ancestors.
"We are in a burial ground, no doubt about it," she said. "They haven't come up with a good plan for the treatment of the iwi. . . . We have not reached any kind of agreement that is satisfactory."
The shopping complex has faced other opposition from neighbors. But the developer modified designs, scaling back the project and keeping all but local traffic off nearby Kainani Street.
The original design called for a gross leasable area of 128,000 square feet. Now, the project has 105,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space and 550 parking stalls.
Safeway's store at the Maui Lani Center would be its fourth on Maui. It already has stores in Kahului, Lahaina and Kihei.
Steve Berndt, vice president of real estate for Safeway, said the grocery chain was "very excited" to partner with HRT and the Weinberg Trust on the project.
"This will bring a much-needed supermarket to the residents of the growing Central Maui region," he said in an announcement.
The store would feature Safeway's "Lifestyle" format, with prepared food offerings including sushi, signature sandwiches and hot soups "in a warm, inviting environment that highlights the fresh, high-quality products and proprietary brands," Safeway's announcement said.
Wendell Brooks III of CB Richard Ellis has been retained to lease the remainder of the shopping center.
"This is a great location," Brooks said. "We're excited about finding the right mix of tenants who will meet the needs of this growing community."
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.