Whether you call it "new urbanism" or "re-inventing the college town," the Kihei-based Maui Research & Technology Park has ambitious plans to grow, incorporate more diverse uses and become a cohesive, fully functional, knowledge-based community.
Heading the effort is Steven Perkins, project coordinator for Pacific Rim Land, the master developer. From 2000 to 2008, Perkins was program director for Maui Economic Development Board (also based at the park). In 2008, he moved over to Pacific Rim to take on the new assignment.
Assisting with securing the necessary entitlements is Chris Hart, president of Chris Hart & Partners in Wailuku. Hart, a longtime Maui planner, has been active in the growth and development of the park since its inception.
A conceptual rendering of the Maui Research & Technology Park build-out through 2034 shows a knowledge-based community with several core areas covering almost 400 acres. Plans for the expanded park feature a mixed-use center, an employment core, two knowledge-industry campus expansions and a variety of housing options from single-family to live-work flex space. This rendering was furnished by Maui R&T Partners LLC, the park’s owners. The project is located mauka of the Pi‘ilani Highway above the Elleair Golf Course.
"Maui first began planning for a research and technology facility in 1981," Hart said, when the park was envisioned "as the third leg in a trio of economic engines that included agriculture, visitor industry and R&T."
It became a reality in 1985, when the park was included in the Kihei-Makena Community Plan.
"In the '80s, the models for technology growth were large-lot subdivision," Hart said. "They were places where big corporations built impressive campus-like facilities that were large-scale employers and workers commuted to their jobs."
To some extent the Maui R&T Park followed that model. In the years that followed, Perkins said, the development grew to 180,000 square feet, including five major buildings on approximately 86 acres. Today it includes 24 companies that employ over 400 workers. It is located just above the Elleair Golf Course on the mauka side of the Pi'ilani Highway.
The present mix includes the "Maui Super Computer," aka the Maui High Performance Computing Center, the Pacific Disaster Center, and defense contractors such as Boeing and the Air Force Research Laboratory. There are smaller incubator tenants, private sector companies such as Goodfellow Brothers--one of Maui's largest construction firms--and a scattering of other professionals. Currently, an estimated $120 million to $180 million flows through the park annually.
But, Perkins and Hart explained, the original model did not anticipate more recent trends in technology, in which owners and tenants want smaller, more flexible spaces. They also want to be able to live, work, go to school, shop and dine--all in a low-rise, pedestrian-friendly, knowledge-driven setting.
Think Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Cambridge, Madison, Bloomington, or any other busy college town where the university and its spin-offs are the economic driver. In the Maui plan, like most college towns, the scale is dense, but low-rise, and the mix is lively.
A 20-year time line is anticipated. During that time, it is projected to grow from the 86 acres that are presently developed to just over 400 acres by 2034.
"However," Perkins pointed out, "the entire area has been contemplated for technology use since the 1980s."
A conceptual rendering furnished by Maui R&T Partners LLC, the owner of the park, shows a mixed-use center, an employment core, a knowledge industry expansion campus in two sections, and three substantial and diverse residential areas. These include multi-family dwellings, town homes, single-family units and live-work flex space.
Other anticipated uses are retail, civic, park and open space. Potential occupants include a permanent campus for the Kihei Charter School (a K-12 a public school). A variety of other educational and civic uses are also included in the plan.
Perkins emphasized that the planners want to avoid the cul-de-sac effect. "Connectivity to all sides of the development is an important feature," he said.
Perkins and Hart think it will take another two years to secure the necessary clearances and changes, which include modification to the county's enabling ordinance to allow more uses and smaller lot sizes. Currently, there is a two-acre minimum and many types of activities are not allowed.
An environmental impact statement (EIS) has been conducted and is undergoing comment. Coming up are appearances at the state Land Use Commission to obtain the necessary "urban" designation for the expansion, and a county community plan amendment and zoning are necessary to coordinate and tie it all together.
Perkins said that the park plan is congruent with the Maui Island Plan now undergoing final review. He added that to date, comments by area residents and groups, including the Kihei Community Association, have been favorable.
Maui R&T Partners chose Calthorpe Associates as master planners. The high-profile firm is based in Berkeley, California. Its portfolio is international in scope and includes many related projects that have already been completed in the U.S. and abroad.
Woodridge Capital of Los Angeles and Honolulu-based American Savings Bank are participants in the preliminary financing.
Perkins said he hoped entitlements would be in place by the end of 2014 and segmented marketing might get underway as early as the following year. He said that as the expansion progresses, multiple sub-developers are expected to become involved, each of whom might take a piece of the plan and execute it.
By 2034, the expanded technology park is anticipated to have about 2,700 residents, 7,300 employees and combined gross estimated annual revenues approaching $600 million. Construction and infrastructure improvements are projected at over $1 billion.
"We're going for a mixed-use, complete community based on innovation and backed by the knowledge industry," Perkins said.
View the PDF of the MRTP Overview plan at the end of this story at www.mauiweekly.com.
Chris Hart, a man who made a crucial difference to Maui, passed away on Monday, Nov. 12.