A $370 million South Kohala development is making progress with the long-awaited Waikoloa Plaza on schedule to open next summer.
The Waikoloa Plaza is being developed by Meridian Pacific LTD and will host a shopping center with nearly 30 retail, service and restaurant businesses. Adjacent to the shopping center will be the multi-family Lofts at Waikoloa, built out in phases, and a hotel.
The mixed use development sits on nearly 30 acres adjacent to the Waikoloa Fire Station, and will eventually have 400 affordable units available for rent.
“Our affordable housing is affordable because we build it within a budget,” said Meridian President Gary Pinkston. “We’re not asking for any grants or any special zoning or any tax credits. We just build them so we can lease them for about $1,800 per month for a two-bedroom, one-bath unit.”
Pinkston envisions the shopping plaza’s workers leasing the lofts, enabling them to live and work within walking distance.
“A shopping center this size will have 500 employees working in the shops,” he said, using his Waipahu Town Center on Oahu as a reference.
Groundbreaking for the shopping center took place in April 2018, and Pinkston said Goodfellow Brothers, which is doing the horizontal work, has completed sitewide underground electrical and plumbing utilities installation.
Walls will begin to appear at the site this summer.
“We are just about ready to go vertical probably June but certainly by July 4,” he said.
Pinkston, who is also developing Puna Kai Shopping Center in Pahoa, said his workers are 100% from the Big Island, with 100-150 workers employed. He will be building 30 lofts with a completion date anticipated to be in December simultaneously with the Plaza in order to house his workers coming from the east side of the island.
“When we got ready to bring a lot of our workers from Hilo they said ‘we’re ready to go to Waikoloa but where are we going to live?’ So initially we are starting out these lofts as workforce housing for our workers,” he said.
Once the project is complete, those units will become available as leased lofts.
“By this time next year we will have about 130 more units,” he said, adding he plans on adding about 100 units per year until the project is completely built out.
The response from both Plaza and Loft lessees has been incredible considering walls have not even gone up yet.
Pinkston said they signed leases for 225 lofts in a two-week period, and the shopping center is about 90% leased.
“The shopping center is about 150,000 square feet and we only have about 8,000 square feet left,” he said. “I’ve been in this business 40 years and I have never had a shopping center fully leased before we went vertical.”
Pinkston said Meridian Pacific is committed to the community.
“When we finish these centers, we keep them and manage them, we own them and get very close to the community,” he said. “We’re selling a site to the library, who has been trying to get a site there (in Waikoloa) for 20 years.”
He added his commitment to the community includes purchasing their materials from HPM and securing financing through Bank of Hawaii.
His ties to the Big Island can be traced to the 1970s.
“I grew up on a ranch in Kansas and we had a large feedlot. Parker Ranch would ship us cattle in the ’70s for finishing, so we’ve always had a tie to the Big Island,” said Pinkston.
The Plaza will be anchored by Foodland, the center will include Ace Hardware, Aloha Petroleum, Balsimo’s Pizza, Black Lava Vape Shop, Bodhi Tree Juicery, Family Health and Wellness, Fitness Forever, Goodwill, Hapuna Sports Bar and Grill, HoloHolo Brewing, Island Holistic Healing, Jeans Warehouse, Kohala Coffee Co., L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Popeyes, Pudgee Panda, Pueo’s Osteria, Sushi Rolls and Bowls, Thep Tai Cuisine and Waikoloa Propane.
Holiday Inn Express is expected to be complete by December 2022, said Pinkston.