GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Longtime Mililani residents and community leaders recollect the early days of Mililani Town on a trolley ride.
Mililani marks a milestone
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After four decades in the making, Mililani, the state's first fee-simple, master-planned community comes to completion.
Central Oahu home developer Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii Inc. has less than
10 homes to sell before capping off its 16,000 unit development, which encompasses town homes and houses for some 50,000 residents in Mililani Town and Mililani Mauka.
The company, which spent more than $3.5 billion shoring up its development, converted thousands of acres of pineapple fields to neighborhoods in the hope of luring residents to the suburbs. It was a gamble, but it paid off.
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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Long time Mililani residents and community leaders Sam Lee and wife Marilyn Lee recollect the early days of Mililani Town. They were on a trolley tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Central Oahu Subdivision.
Final home sales complete 40-year Mililani Town plan
Begun in 1958, the area is now home to 50,000 residents in 16,000 homes
Central Oahu home developer Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii Inc.
will cap off its 16,000-home master-planned project in Mililani this year, completing a 40-year vision of community development.
"This is a significant accomplishment," said Callman Au, who was one of the original four-man sales team that launched the residential community of Mililani. "It took us months to sell those first homes because Mililani was unknown, but we had a dream."
The company, which converted thousands of acres of pineapple fields to neighborhoods, gambled on the idea that they could lure Honolulu residents west by offering tree-lined streets, spacious parks, state-of-the-art recreation centers and conveniently located commercial centers.
"There was always a question in our minds and a fear that we couldn't complete this town," said the now-retired Au. "The environmentalists didn't want us to use the pineapple fields to build houses, and for a while the company wasn't making enough profit."
But it was a risk that paid off. The company, which overcame its challenges and delivered about 400 homes a year over a 40-year period, is now less than 10 homes away from selling out its Mililani inventory, said Bruce Barrett, executive vice president for Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii.
"We expect to sell out in the next few months," said Barrett, whose father was one of Castle & Cooke's first sales managers.
REAL ESTATE WINNER
During the last decade, the value of Mililani real estate has out-performed Oahu as a whole.
||Median price during the past 12 months
||Median price a decade ago
||sales price psf during the past 12 months
||sales price psf a decade ago
Source: John Jacobson, Prudential Locations LLC
MILILANI TIME LINE
1958: Planning for Mililani begins.
1968: Castle & Cooke begins sales for Mililani, a community whose name in Hawaiian means "to look skyward."
1971: 1,200 Mililani Town homes are completed.
1975: Mililani has 3,042 homes and a population of 12,396.
1981: 6,200 homes now exist in Mililani, housing nearly 22,000.
1986: Mililani is named Hawaii's only "All-America City" by the Citizen's Forum on Self Government of the National Municipal League in Washington, D.C.
1990: Construction begins on Mililani Mauka.
2005: Money magazine names Mililani as one of the best places to live in the U.S.
2008: Final homes are built and sold in Mililani.
Source: Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii Inc.
Prices in Mililani currently range from $350,000 for affordable townhomes to just south of $1 million for executive-style homes with perimeter views, said Harry Saunders III, president of Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii. That's quite a jump from first-release prices, which ranged from $25,000 to $37,000 in the late 1960s.
"This is a strong community and values have held well," Saunders said. "Values in Mililani have always tracked the median. They used to be just slightly under; now they are slightly above."
Planning for Mililani began in 1958, and residential homes in Mililani Town, the community's first offering, went to market in 1968. Ground was broken for Mililani Mauka, the final phase of the company's master plan, in 1990.
Now the community, which was once made up of mostly sugar lands and pineapple fields, is home to some 50,000 residents who enjoy its many recreational, spiritual and business opportunities. The community houses seven public schools, more than 21 parks, seven recreation centers and about 12 churches. There also are three major shopping centers - Town Center of Mililani, Mililani Shopping Center and Mililani Market Place - and a variety of other health- and service-related businesses.
And so ends an era for a company with a dream and the willingness to spend more than $3.5 billion to shore up its investment with the necessary infrastructure.
"What we envisioned in the 1950s, we did in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and continued into the 2000s," Saunders said. "I was amazed, and I still am today, that early plans from the 1950s turned out a community much like what was envisioned."
While Castle & Cooke will close a major chapter in its more than 150-year history with the completion of Mililani, the company will continue developing the Villages of Kapolei and Koa Ridge, providing a range of housing for Hawaii residents in Kapolei, Makakilo and Waikoloa.
Mililani, too, will continue developing, Saunders said.
Growth in Mililani has been sufficient enough to allow Donna Abreu to work her way up from counter employee at McDonald's to owning two of her own franchises there, where she currently employs about 120.
"In the 11 years that I've owned my McDonald's stores, I've had the privilege of working with nearly 3,000 young adults," Abreu said. "As they've grown up, many have stayed in the community. They come back to visit and they bring their children. I've become a godmother and a grandmother to many."
Sam Lee, who led a crusade to purify the community's drinking water that later earned Mililani recognition as an "All-America City" in 1986, and his wife, Rep. Marilyn Lee (D, Mililani), were among the first residents of the community and continue to remain strong advocates.
"Our Mililani home is the first and only house that we've ever owned," Rep. Lee said. "It was on the first cul-de-sac developed by Castle & Cooke, and many of our neighbors are still the original owners. This is the kind of place that people like to live. This is not a transient community."
The fact that Mililani is home to many first-, second- and now third-generation residents is a great indicator of the master plan's success, Saunders said.
"Our greatest thanks go out to the families who have made Mililani their home," he said. "Some 40 percent of our buyers have come from within the community."