Approximately 150 concerned South Maui community members gathered on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 6 p.m. at the Kihei Community Center to eat chili and rice and hear details about the revised plan for the proposed Pi'ilani Promenade development, 65 acres of land at the intersection of Ka'ono'ulu Street and Pi'ilani Highway, from its owners, their representatives and individual members of their design team at a public informational meeting.
For the first 30 minutes, the audience mingled and familiarized themselves with the newly proposed project's maps and illustrations prominently displayed along the north wall of the community center.
With members of Sarofim Realty Advisors, the ownership of Pi'ilani Promenade, present, their representative, Charlie Jencks, began the meeting by jokingly introducing himself as the "fifth scariest person on Maui"--a reference to his recent ranking by the Maui Time Weekly.
Pi‘ilani Promenade and North Kīhei Planned Development Pi‘ilani Promenade is indicated here as “SITE.” Concentric circles (in red) one-quarter- and one-half-miles (in blue) in diameter are used to illustrate the planned interconnectivity of the mixed-use site with the proposed high school and residential development mauka of the site.
Jencks provided an overview and history of the property and the newly proposed project, which now includes 226 residential units (25 percent of which is affordable housing), light industrial (60,000 square feet), and mixed-use business and commercial (530,000 square feet). It's a true mixed-use space comprised of places to work, shop and live, Jenks said in a previous interview. The plan also includes pedestrian and bicycle pathways and approximately two acres of green space.
The mixed-use business and commercial portion of the project has been downsized to a smaller footprint from its original 700,000 square feet, but will retain the first plan's original infrastructure. Because of this downsizing, Jenks said in a previous interview, the traffic is expected to decrease 25 percent from the original plan.
The entrance to the proposed development, running perpendicular to the Pi'ilani Highway, will also mark the beginning of the Upcountry Highway that will eventually link to Haleakala Highway at the Hali'imaile Road intersection (see "Pi'ilani Promenade Site Use" graphic on page 10.)
Originally rezoned as light industrial in 1995, the project site has under gone a number of changes over subsequent years--including the ill-fated 2012 proposal for two shopping centers--a plan proposed by Eclipse Development Group, the developers of the Sarofim-owned property at that time. Sarofim Realty Advisors has removed Eclipse and is now developing the property itself with new plans for the property.
In recognition of community concerns, Jencks quickly outlined plans for water, traffic and the utilization of smart growth concepts, emphasizing the need for "connectivity." (See "Pi'ilani Promenade and North Kihei Planned Development" on front page and "Pi'ilani Promenade Mobility" on this page.)
Jencks concluded by outlining how the community would benefit from such a project, pointing to a total of 1,700 jobs that would be created, much-needed affordable housing, new parks and green spaces, as well as property tax revenues for the County of Maui.
Jencks said a private well has been drilled mauka of the site, which is producing brackish water that will be used for irrigation at the project. Additionally, the owners are planning to construct a $3.5 million, one million gallon water tank on Honua'ula Ranch land at no cost to the community. Jencks said this would benefit all of South Maui by providing additional water in the area.
He stressed that this project must address existing runoff and flash flooding issues and utilize design concepts to ensure no additional impacts are felt by those downstream of the proposed development. Jencks was also adamant that the Kulanihakoi Gulch will not be filled or altered in any way by the proposed project.
Sarofim Realty Advisors Vice President Simon Honeybone said his Dallas-based development firm "may have gotten off on the wrong foot with the South Maui community," assuring those in the audience that the "ownership" wants a do-over. And this time, he said, they plan on getting it right.
Hugh Rose of Architects Orange reiterated the details of the proposed project, emphasizing smart growth and the need for connectivity. He explained that the plans include pedestrian and traffic patterns that are "nested" within concentric circles one-quarter and one-half miles in diameter. Rose said an important aspect of the project was the creation of a "sense of place" within the proposed development, citing the use of green spaces such as parks and pedestrian pathways to unite the community (See "Pi'ilani Promenade Sense of Place" on this page and "Pi'ilani Promenade Park and Green Space Details" on page 16.
At the end of the formal public presentation, audience members were invited to seek out and speak directly to the owners, various planners and experts positioned near posters of the potential Pi'ilani Promenade design. About 100 attendees took advantage of the opportunity.
But the ownership's attempt to provide experts on each topic and leave no questions unanswered instead left many community members visibly upset by what they felt was an plan to deliberately diffuse tension by breaking the audience apart to address their concerns individually, rather than as a community.
According to Robbie Dein of Maui Real Estate Advisors, "It [the presentation] was all one way. The community did not have a voice."
Dein also stated that dividing the audience into small groups after the presentation seemed like a conscience strategy by Sarofim to avoid addressing a plethora of real community concerns with the proposed project.
So while the message of the evening was connectivity and the creation of a sense of place for South Maui, a number of attendees left feeling disconnected--their concerns unanswered.
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the project, said in a later interview that the meeting "was designed to create a place where people could meet their friends and neighbors, enjoy a meal and talk to each other and not just at each other, as so often happens in meetings about events in the community.
"We enjoyed hearing from the many members of the community that stayed for the one-hour question-and-answer period after the presentation, and we are very encouraged by the support and ideas of the community," said Blackburn-Rodriguez after the meeting.
But when asked about plans for renewable energy, water reclamation efforts, community gardens, etc., Sarofim Vice President Robert Poynor pointed out that they are only in the planning stage, and that the ownership is open to community input going forward.
According to both Poynor and Honeybone, this public informational meeting is just a starting point by which to address community concerns.
Pi'ilani Promenade is still in its nascent stage and has yet to go before the state Land Use Commission (LUC) to request the rezoning required to move forward.
The community will have several more opportunities to comment on the development.
A decision and order will be filed by the end of the year to the LUC. An EIS Preparation Notice has been filed, comments based on public input will be added to the final draft of the EIS (probably in February), which will be then published for a 45-day public comment period. The final EIS with public comments addressed will then be presented to the LUC, which will accept or deny the document. The process may be completed at the end of next year.
Only time will tell if Sarofim will get its do-over with the South Maui community or experience renewed resistance to the new plans.