Iolani not rushing to develop new land


POSTED: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Iolani School, which announced yesterday the purchase of 5 1/2 acres between Date Street and its campus, will not develop the property anytime soon, to the relief of condo and cooperative apartment owners whose leases expire in three years.

;  “;It'll take us a generation or two to develop the property,”; or about 20 to 25 years, said Iolani Headmaster Val Iwashita.

The area has 250 units in low-rise apartment buildings, 50 of which are owner-occupied, Iwashita said. Leases expire in 2012 and the fee-simple ownership will not be available to current owner-occupants.

Lessee Barbara Dale, 82, who lives in Laau Gardens and learned of the sale yesterday from an e-mail, said, “;That would be fine with us, considering 2012 was our deadline before, although I kind of promised my place to my daughter.”;

Iwashita said the school has no definite plans for the property now, and it will take a lot of planning and fundraising before any expansion takes place.

Landowners Yum Kip Kee Ltd. and Lum Chang Tai Inc. sold the property—bounded by Laau and Date streets, the campus and the Royal Iolani and Regency Tower condominiums—for $23 million.

Bill Ramsey Inc. will manage the rental units and address tenant needs.

An 87-year-old neighbor of Dale said five more years would make her happy, and smiled upon learning Iolani had purchased the property.

“;I'm sure they're going to be sensitive to our needs,”; said the woman, who declined to give her name.

One-bedroom rentals go for $1,000 to $1,500 a month, she said. “;How can people afford to live?”;

She bought leasehold because “;in those days, we didn't have a whole lot of money when we made the purchase, but we had no idea it would come to this.”;

Dale said the landowners made offers to sell the fee over the years, but it kept growing higher and higher. The last offer was $17 million and her fee share would have been $80,000, she said.

Iwashita said the campus expansion will begin along the 1.9-acre corridor between the campus and Laau Street and a vacant lot at Laau and Date.

Real estate broker John Riggins said, “;There's no recourse for lessees,”; after the city repealed the lease-to-fee conversion law for condos, townhouses and co-ops.