CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Above, the living room of one of nine Bali Lofts designed by architect Jim Schmit along Hawaii Kai Drive. The $1.6 million homes were designed to maximize the unusual narrow roadside location. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hawaii Kai's Bali Lofts, starting at $1.6 million, are meant to prove a point, the architect says
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THE architect of the Bali Lofts in Hawaii Kai set out to prove that creatively designed homes can exist on unusual lots facing a busy drive. Honolulu-based A.Y. Investments, working designs by self-defined modernist architect Jim Schmit, are building the nine-home subdivision along a slope that few would have considered developable.
The properties,shown above, are meant to be examples of modernist homes with a Hawaiian sense of place, says Schmit, who envisioned the project the moment he laid eyes on the residential-zoned hillside.
Others appear to share his vision, despite a $1.6 million price tag. Potential buyers already have put down deposits on three of the homes, which are being marketed by Choi International.
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They're unusual homes on unusual lots -- nestled at the foot of a hillside along a busy stretch along Hawaii Kai Drive, where you wouldn't normally expect to see a development.
Yet the Bali Lofts, nine of them in all, are there and on the market, starting at $1.6 million. They are part of a new subdivision, and meant to prove a point, according to the architect who designed them.
Jim Schmit calls the homes examples of modernist architecture, inspired by the industrial look of warehouse lofts in New York City's SoHo district, a Balinese site-planning concept and a little bit of Hawaii in its use of the indoor-outdoor relation.
"It's the first development of its kind," said Schmit as he pointed out how details indoors flow seamlessly to the ones outdoors, like the continuation of a wall.
Developer Andy Yip of A.Y. Investments has partnered with Schmit, an architect who's designed homes in Hawaii for more than 20 years, to build the Bali Lofts on residential-zoned land.
It was once a hilly slope that most drivers sped by en route to the Hawaii Kai golf course or to Lunalilo Home Road, below a luxury neighborhood known as Kamehame Ridge.
They purchased 2.5 acres in all for an undisclosed price three years ago with the intention of building the subdivision, dividing it into lots of about 10,000 square feet.
Schmit said the moment he saw the land, he had the vision for the lofts.
The cost of construction is well over $10 million, said Schmit, although he declined to be more specific.
At least $2 million alone went into building infrastructure, which included plumbing, sewers, electricity and utilities. The team also agreed to repave the stretch of road in front of the homes.
"I am at heart a modernist," said Schmit, who is also designing artist Pegge Hopper's home. "Every Realtor in town tells every developer in town that modernism doesn't sell. I want people to know that modern architecture is valid for Hawaii."
While no one has ever created homes quite like the Bali Lofts, modernist-inspired homes have been designed throughout Hawaii over the last 30 years and can be found in Kahala, Hawaii Loa Ridge and Kailua.
The 4-bedroom homes, which are listed by Choi International, may serve as a test of whether modernism does sell here. Realtor Associate Sean Lopez says potential buyers have put down deposits for three of the lots already.
"People are commenting on it, that it's fresh, it's new or different," said Lopez.
The selling point, according to Lopez, is that the 4,000-square-foot homes are priced at $1.6 million, or about $400 per square foot, which he said is competitive for the neighborhood.
Dan Madden, a Realtor with East Oahu Realty who specializes in the neighborhood, said the Bali Lofts add more variety to the choices of homes he can show clients in Hawaii Kai.
"I think they're very nicely done," said Madden. "I think the architect took good advantage of the design and shape. I think it was done very thoughtfully."
Possible market comparables, he said, are homes at nearby Koko Villas. Homes there are listed for $1.5 million, but are less than 4,000 square feet.
In May, the Honolulu Board of Realtors recorded a median home price of $895,000 in Hawaii Kai.
Two of the completed Bali Lofts homes have been shown at Sunday Open House since the last week of May. The other homes are under construction and should be completed by the summer of next year.
Since the lots front a busy street, and the homes are only set back 10 feet from Hawaii Kai Drive, Schmit built walls that block out the noise while creating an interior courtyard.
The site-planning concept, he said, including the circular flow around the courtyard, was inspired by Bali, as was an open-style dining lanai.
One home features a lush garden and infinity pool. The other features a garden pond.
Because the lots are long and narrow -- about 70 feet deep by 150 feet long, designing the homes was a challenge. But it's those types of challenges that Schmit enjoys, because he wants to show how it can be done.
Privacy was designed into each home, said Schmit, who also put in plenty of strategically angled windows, a glass hallway and skylights to maximize the natural light.
The homes come with high ceilings and offer a second-level loft, which could be a master bedroom along with a bonus room left unfinished on purpose so the owner can decide what they want there.
The materials offer a mix -- industrial elements such as stained concrete floors and steel beams, for instance, softened by hardwood, travertine and battenboard.
Schmit said he hopes he's proved modernist architecture is appropriate for Hawaii, and can be done with a Hawaiian sense of place.