Thursday, December 16, 1999

Watt Homes to
leave isles after
Kapolei project

The parent firm says the
mainland offers better
investment opportunities

By Russ Lynch


Housing developer Watt Homes, nearing completion of the second of its two developments at the Villages of Kapolei, plans to phase out its Hawaii operations over the next year and leave the islands.

"It's been very tough to make money," said Charles J. Heitzman, president of the Watt Homes Hawaii division.

He said the division built and sold 812 homes, a mixture of single-family homes and condominium or townhouse units, with a total value of more than $200 million.

But the economy has been on a downslide throughout the 10 years it took to get them built, Heitzman said today.

Watt's parent company, Encino, Calif.-based WL Homes LLC, decided that its investment dollars would bring a better return on the mainland, where local economies are stronger than Hawaii's, he said.

WL Homes wants to do large-scale developments for first-time buyers or for those making their first move up into a better home, Heitzman said, adding that there are no significant opportunities for that sort of development in Hawaii now.

Throughout the time it has been struggling in Hawaii, the company has found plenty of those opportunities in Western states, he said.

Heitzman said there will be cutbacks in the company's staff of eight but he could not yet say how many. The company will keep adequate staff on hand to deal with any warranty matters concerning the houses that were built, he added.

The company has used contracted construction workers to build its Hawaii homes.

As the 428-home Aeloa development nears conclusion, following the 384-unit Malanai village, the company will phase out, Heitzman said.

"Our two projects are coming to final completion and we don't have any more on the books," he said.

Watt's mix of homes included some built to the state's affordable-housing specifications.

Heitzman plans to stay in Hawaii.

He said he hopes to continue working with housing and he believes the Hawaii economy is turning around.

Watt merged in April 1998 with John Laing Homes, the California-based division of a British company, John Laing Plc.

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