Owners of the Maui Research & Technology Park hope to give the sprawling Kihei campus a $1.4 billion makeover to help attract a broader range of business activities and build out hundreds of undeveloped acres within the park.
An updated master plan released this week calls for a major shift from the existing traditional tech park to "an integrated and vibrant mixed-use community focused around a regional knowledge-based industry employment base."
Developer Maui R&T Partners - a partnership between Pacific Rim Land and Woodridge Capital Partners - filed a draft environmental impact statement on the plan this month. Public comments will be accepted through Aug. 7 on the draft EIS.
Steven Perkins, project coordinator, points to a map showing the overall concept proposed for a makeover of the Maui Research & Technology Park with the site of the proposed expansion visible through the window.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The expansion would be spread out over two 10-year phases and would add a mixed-use village center, residential areas, a business hotel, an expansion of knowledge-industry lots, and open space and parks.
"We're 25 years into this project, and it's time to transform for the best chances of continued success," project coordinator Steve Perkins told The Maui News. "We want to broaden the range of opportunities for all sizes of knowledge-based businesses and be poised to capture any economic development opportunity that arises. The current controlling documents don't allow for that."
The concept for the Maui Research & Technology Park originated in the 1980s with local private and public sector leaders intent on diversifying the island's economy through investment in high technology.
But only 40 acres of the park's 414 acres - or 10 percent - have been developed on the land mauka of Piilani Highway above the Elleair Golf Club.
Still, the park is home to 24 companies and projects that employ 400 workers. An estimated $150 million a year in revenue flows through those two dozen businesses that include Boeing, the Maui High Performance Computing Center and the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing observatory.
"However, the breadth and depth of employment opportunities is less than hoped for when the park was conceived years ago," the 1,500-page draft environmental study for the project states. "The update will put the park within reach of a broader range of desirable industries - and the people who work in them."
Perkins said that a major challenge in attracting more tenants has been a minimum 2-acre lot requirement.
That would change under the updated plan, which says "sufficient land area is available within the knowledge industry expansion zones to accommodate up to 2 million square feet of building area on a great diversity of lot sizes."
Perkins said another challenge is the narrow scope of acceptable research and technology uses in the park.
For example, he said, a university campus, hospital or film studio would not be allowed under current rules.
"We want to make sure those kinds of uses are captured in our update," Perkins said.
The updated master plan seeks amendments to the county's Kihei-Makena Community Plan, the state land use district boundary and county zoning.
"It's important to note that there's no new lands being added to this plan," Perkins said.
The residential component of the updated master plan calls for a mix of single-family and multifamily units totaling as much as 1,250 units.
Perkins stressed the housing would be targeted at employees of the tech park.
"These will not be gated communities or offshore resort-style communities," he said. "It's to be integrated with the knowledge-based industry at the park and will be priced to appeal to a mix of employees from entry-level to folks in management at various companies."
Adding a residential component, the developers say, will eliminate the need for workers to drive to and from work.
"It is anticipated that over the course of build-out, sufficient employment will be generated to warrant the construction of housing," the draft EIS says. "By locating housing within the park, housing is brought closer to jobs, thus reducing commuting time and mitigating traffic congestion."
The park's updated concept was recently supported by the Maui County Council, which is working toward a December deadline to complete work on an updated Maui Island Plan to guide future growth and development on Maui.
Council members included the park's plans in the Kihei-Makena section of the Maui Island Plan under review, including approval to add 1,250 residential units.
"As the (Maui Research & Technology Park) develops, it should utilize the principles of new urbanism (and) smart growth . . . to create a community of innovation," the county's draft Maui Island Plan states. "This includes providing diverse housing options within close proximity of the park's employment and integrating neighborhood serving retail, civic and commercial uses in a manner that encourages bicycling, walking and public transport."
Dick Mayer, vice chairman of the county's General Plan Advisory Committee, said the residential component of the park's master plan never came before the committee.
"In the context of all of the development proposed along Piilani Highway, can the highway handle all the traffic?" Mayer asked. "These 1,250 units, another 1,000 in Kihei Mauka, and the developments at Wailea 670 and Makena - this seems to be more units than South Maui needs. . . . Maybe this project is better than some of the others, and maybe others should be dropped. It should be about which of these are the best projects for Maui."
The park's proposed mixed-use village center would be a 58-acre center with a mix of housing, office, civic, live-work and parks, according to the project's master plan. Civic uses could include private school or charter school campuses, Perkins said.
It hasn't been determined whether the developer will build-out the various planned components or sell portions to be developed by other entities.
"We are master planning this and getting the program in place," Perkins said. "We could sell portions for on-ground development, or we may build it ourselves. The traditional pattern has been that we sell lots and the buyer designs and builds their own."
The estimated economic impacts of the project during and after build-out are sizable.
The updated master plan includes a economic study that found the following:
* The park would generate about $1.39 billion in capital investment into the island's economy.
* Construction and ongoing operations and maintenance of the residences, on-site commercial and industrial/businesses and community facilities would provide an estimated $2.7 billion in total wages over a 19-year period.
* At build-out, the population of the community would be about 2,765 persons, of which 2,367 would be full-time residents.
* Annual net benefits after build-out would be $57.3 million to the state and $21.5 million to the county.
* In addition to direct economic impact, the project would stimulate economic development outside of the park. The base economic impact on Maui would total $7.8 billion during build-out and $903.9 million annually upon stabilization.
* After stabilization, the urban village community would support 5,878 permanent jobs on-site with an annual payroll of about $217 million, and an additional 1,469 workers with $68.6 million in yearly wages off-site.
If approved, the Maui Research & Technology Park's updated master plan would be implemented in two phases through 2034. The developers expect to obtain the necessary entitlements to implement the plan by early 2014.
Some roadway improvements may be necessary, including upgrades to the Piilani Highway-Lipoa Parkway signalized intersection to increase capacity, according to the draft EIS. The project also may require a second access road onto the highway near East Waipuilani Road, and a third one near the old Welakahao Road intersection.
* View the draft EIS: oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.