800-unit housing development in West Maui moves forward

Pulelehua gets approval for site plan, which includes market-rate, affordable units

Akahele Street bisects the proposed 310-acre Pulelehua development on the slopes below Kapalua Airport in 2019. The Maui Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the project’s site plan. Once all phases are complete, Pulelehua will include 800 multifamily units, 100 single-family lots with the potential for 100 additional ohana units, an estimated 70,000-square-foot commercial and retail floor space, a 13-acre school site, a 10-acre community park site and about 124 acres of open spaces. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Pointing to the incredible need for affordable, long-term housing solutions for local families, the Maui Planning Commission voted unanimously for the development of a West Maui housing and commercial project.

Developer Maui Oceanview LP on Tuesday presented the commission with Pulelehua’s preliminary Phase II site plan, which involves the construction of market-rate and affordable units on 310 acres in West Maui, located on Akahele Street and Honoapiilani Highway.

After a couple hours of testimony and discussion, commissioner Kellie Pali said that Pulelehua will be beneficial for residents.

“I think we’ve done a good job today with teasing out all these questions and hearing from the public and I think this project, we can all agree, is a great one,” Pali said. “I think we just all agree that this developer did a great job of being open, flexible. He expresses a very genuine nature of actually caring and hearing different opinions and did his best to incorporate them.”

Once all phases are complete, Pulelehua in total will include a mixed-use development, including 800 multifamily units consisting of 100 affordable for-sale units, 400 market-rate units and 300 workforce rentals; 100 single-family lots with the potential for 100 additional ohana units; an estimated 70,000-square-foot commercial and retail floor space; a 13-acre school site; a 10-acre community park site; about 124 acres of open spaces; and other infrastructure improvements.

The retail floor space, which may come around Phases 4 and 5, will have the opportunity to include local grocers and “mom and pop” shops, depending on market and community needs.

There will also be about 7 miles of pedestrian access that connects the community together and provides access to the park and retail space. A few bus stops are also in the plans.

“I just want the community to know that I’m going to do everything that I can to fulfill the promises I made,” said Paul Cheng, president of Maui Oceanview LP who purchased Pulelehua with all of its land entitlements in 2016. “I’m proud to do it, I want to do it and I’ll give it my best to make it the best project for the residents.”

Pulelehua for-sale affordable units in 2023 are projected to cost between $183,600 to $220,000 for a one-bedroom unit for someone earning 60 percent or less of the area median income ($57,540 under 2021 county guidelines). The price for a two-bedroom unit is estimated around $220,000 to 296,000 for a family earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income ($57,540 to $76,720).

Cheng said that units will remain affordable for perpetuity or at least 30 years, affordable renters would not have to pay electric and water and there would be a prohibition on short-term rentals and bed-and-breakfasts.

The project has been nearly two decades in the making, originally getting approvals in June 2006 from the state Land Use Commission, which imposed dozens of conditions, including that 450 of the 882 units be affordable.

After purchasing the property, Maui Oceanview LP approached the Land Use Commission in 2019 asking to reduce the number of affordable units from 450 to 280. The request sparked opposition from residents who’d spent years waiting for the long-promised housing. After Cheng sat down with concerned community members, the company agreed with increase the number of affordable units as part of a settlement agreement with the West Maui Preservation Association.

The agreement also includes more than $1 million for a community benefit trust to help with down payment funds for residents buying affordable or Hawaiian homelands.

Considering that the development is near the Kapalua Airport, a memorandum of understanding and agreement states that Maui Oceanview will pay for all ongoing costs for maintenance and operation of Akahele Street and is responsible for any deficiencies or hazardous materials.

“Mr. Cheng has pretty much committed to everything we have ever asked for,” said Planning Commission Chairperson Christian Tackett before the vote. “It’s going to help the poor people, it’s going to help the middle class, he’s promising to pay prevailing wages to the workers, he’s promising housing for people who have a hard time affording it.”

Most of the 20 testifiers Tuesday supported Pulelehua, with some voicing opposition over concerns with an increase in traffic and the sprawl of the development changing the character of the area.

Commissioner Dale Thompson spoke in support of the project on Tuesday because it’s “much needed and well earned,” but was concerned about potential traffic impacts with Akahele being a single road.

Vice Chairperson P. Denise La Costa and members Jerry Edlao, Kawika Freitas, Mel Hipolito Jr., Ashley Lindsey and Kimberly Thayer also voted in favor of Pulelehua.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.


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