Los Angeles-based designer Sue Wong plans to build a home on a site near the historic shoreline for the Kipahulu Landing property. This is the view toward Kaupo, East Maui.
Conservancy’s Maui sale is designer deal
The sale of a historic property will leave most of it undeveloped and raise funds for conservation
STORY SUMMARY »
The Nature Conservancy is selling a historic piece of East Maui land to a fashion designer for $3.6 million, but officials say the deal will benefit the continued preservation of the pristine coastal parcel.
Los Angeles-based designer Sue Wong plans to build a home on the site but has agreed to several conditions designed to keep the bulk of the 35-acre parcel free from development. She also agreed to preserve shoreline access for Kipahulu residents.
Wong has been a part-time resident of Kipahulu for a decade. She wanted to build a home there because it reminds her of the Chinese village where she grew up, said Suzanne Case, the Nature Conservancy's executive director in Hawaii.
In addition to the purchase, Wong has agreed to pay $1 million for an endowment to help care for the land, and to donate $1 million to the Nature Conservancy next year.
The Conservancy plans to use the proceeds from the sale for other conservation work in Hawaii.
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A historic and rugged coastal property in Kipahulu, Maui, has been purchased by fashion designer Sue Wong in a deal with the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, the Maui Coastal Land Trust and the Kipahulu Community Association. Wong plans to use 5 acres of the 35-acre site for a home and agricultural uses and leave the rest of the land undeveloped.
A $3.6 million East Maui land deal announced yesterday involving the historic parcel known as Kipahulu Landing was proclaimed a "win-win-win-win" for all concerned by one of its brokers.
The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, which is selling the 35-acre parcel to Los Angeles-based fashion designer Sue Wong, wants to raise money for more native forest conservation work while protecting the Kipahulu land from development.
The Maui Coastal Land Trust, whose mission is preserving coastal and open space on the island, also wants to keep the rocky coast untouched on Maui's remotest windward side.
Kipahulu residents share those preservation goals, but wanted assurance of continued access to the shoreline through the property.
After a search for a buyer who would welcome legally binding commitments to all those "strings," Wong emerged as the potential landowner most aligned with the vision of Kipahulu Community Association and the conservation groups.
Wong, who has maintained a part-time residence in Kipahulu for a decade, wanted to build her dream home in an area that reminds her of the Chinese village where she grew up, said Suzanne Case, the Nature Conservancy's executive director in Hawaii.
Wong respects the land so much that she was eager to make her $3.6 million purchase contingent on permanent protection of its cultural, historic, open space and community-access values, Case told the Star-Bulletin.
The strict conditions on Wong's purchase of the Kipahulu Landing tract, which would stay with the land even if she were to sell it, create a beautiful "win-win-win-win" situation, Case said.
Wong will use no more than 5 acres of the land for her home, an ohana unit and agriculture buildings, a Nature Conservancy release about the project said.
"These kinds of transactions, if done wrong, can end up with a lot of ugly development that can change the character of the community," Case said.
So a key component of the deal was "to preserve the ability of the community to get to the shoreline."
"It's a gorgeous property -- the kind of place you could build 'McMansions' on," Maui Coastal Land Trust executive director Dale B. Bonar said in the announcement of the deal.
But Wong's history with the community and willingness to keep her personal footprint on the land small made her an ideal buyer, Bonar said.
Wong also has pledged a $1 million Kipahulu endowment to help care for the land, which will be administered through the Hawaii Community Foundation, and promised another $1 million donation to the Nature Conservancy next year, Bonar said.
"I am thrilled beyond words to now be the official steward of this wondrous property," Wong said in the announcement. "A thousand thanks to all who were involved in making this happen for me."
"The Kipahulu Community is deeply grateful to Sue Wong and all the parties involved in this transaction," said Stephan Reeve of the Kipahulu Community Association. "They have truly listened to the needs of the community and demonstrated a commitment to protecting the values that make Kipahulu the special place that it is."
Case said the deal has special resonance for her because she spent "several vacations in high school roaming this very parcel."
In the 1970s her father was part of a hui that owned the land and even then wanted to protect it. The land includes open, rolling pastureland grazed by cattle and horses, the century-old landing where boats used to bring in supplies for area residents, as well as culturally significant sites.
The group sold the land to mainland philanthropist Cordelia May, whose estate bequeathed it to the Nature Conservancy in 2005.
The proceeds from the land sale will be used for other Hawaii conservation work, probably for native forests, which were a key concern of former owner May and of the Conservancy, Case said.