KIHEI - A California developer wants to begin construction this spring on a shopping center that would be the largest outlet mall in Hawaii.
The 300,000-square-foot first phase of the project, Maui Outlets, would be located on 30 acres mauka of Piilani Highway and would generate an estimated 1,200 retail jobs, according to Eclipse Development Group LLC, of Irvine, Calif. A second, 400,000-square-foot shopping center is planned for an adjacent 45-acre parcel. When both phases are completed the project would add around 90 shops and restaurants to South Maui.
The site straddles the terminus of the planned Upcountry highway. Zoning and land-use entitlements are in place for the project, which is located on former Kaonoulu Ranch land.
An artist’s rendering shows the design of a major outlet mall planned for Kihei. Eclipse Development Group said they hope to begin construction this year on the 300,000-square-foot Maui Outlets, located along Piilani Highway at the terminus of the planned Upcountry highway.
Eclipse Development Group illustration
As a condition of approvals, developers have agreed to provide land for the Upcountry highway, and make improvements to the Kaonoulu Street intersection.
"We are thrilled the project will not only bring additional shopping opportunities to both local residents and the island's visitor market, but that the outlet center will bring more than 1,200 jobs to the region," said Eclipse President Doug Gray in an email.
He said the company would start announcing its tenants in the coming months.
"This is a tremendous job generator in the middle of a recession," Gray said.
Maui County Council Member Don Couch, who holds the council's South Maui seat, acknowledged that some residents had raised concerns about the project, and said he was still trying to get more information.
"I haven't formed an opinion yet because we don't know what it is, and they're not talking to us," Couch said.
Couch added that he already had some questions about the project's design, and didn't like that the shopping center's sprawling parking lot would be located in front of the main buildings.
He said the current thinking in urban planning is to create more of a small-town feel, with green space and walkways, and parking located out of sight.
"We can't please everyone; however, I think most residents will be pleased with the development and tenants," Gray said. "If we let a committee develop a site, it never would get built. When the community wants to risk $200 million in this economy; they can become developers.
"We expect to be part of the community for a long time; and have bicycle and walking paths along all the roads."
Eclipse will devote $20 million just for infrastructure, said Charlie Jencks, its local consultant.
Jencks said a 13-acre affordable housing subdivision being developed in conjunction with his 670-acre Honuaula project would benefit from the mall's new intersection, roads and planned 1-million-gallon water tank.
"Eclipse has a reputation," Jencks said. "They have done this so many times in so many places, I'm sure it's going to be successful. They know how to get things done."
He also said the stores will cut down on traffic in Kihei by saving South Maui residents shopping trips to Central Maui. As a result, Central Maui's traffic will be less congested, Jencks said.
But Couch questioned whether the project could actually bring additional traffic to the already-crowded Piilani Highway.
He also questioned the need for such a large outlet mall on an island with 155,000 people.
But Mayor Alan Arakawa expressed strong support for the project.
"We need the jobs," Arakawa said. "We're going to be supporting businesses that create jobs."
Arakawa said he met with Eclipse about six months ago to help fast-track building permits. Streamlining permitting is an administration goal, and Eclipse received no special treatment, he said.
Arakawa also said he hasn't seen the plans. Still, he said he thought the shopping center won't have any negative visual impact because of the landscaping. It's next to the proposed Kihei high school, too, and other planned housing developments.
"I haven't seen the specifics because it's a shopping complex," said Arakawa, who expects more details once the leases are signed.
Jencks said Eclipse purchased the property a year ago from Maui Industrial Partners, where he was a partner.
"The heavy lifting was done long before we bought this land," Gray said. "It was in the entitlement process for over 14 years."
The ranch devoted about half of the 1990s to getting all the necessary environmental impact studies done as well as county zoning and state land use designation changes and Maalaea-
to-Makena community plan amendments for light industrial development, said county Planning Director William Spence and others.
"Sometimes, it's time to move ahead," Spence said.
Arakawa said the County Council and the community set this land aside years ago for exactly this kind of use someday to discourage urban sprawl.
There are people who want the malls, and those who don't," Couch said. "It's Maui."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.