The Maui News

WAILUKU, Maui (Mar. 23) - Wailea began when Maui and its real estate market were entirely different. The island was an economic backwater and the first resort destination, Kaanapali Beach, was still a dream of the future.

The first idea at Wailea was to put hotels on the beaches, back them with golf courses and then build housing farther mauka. After considerable controversy, the county allowed the developers, originally Matson Navigation and Northwest Mutual Life Insurance Co., to move the beach road inland.

During the succeeding decades, the hotels went up, a shopping center was built and recently rebuilt, the golf courses and tennis clubs proved popular and the developers discovered the high-end real estate market, building fewer, bigger and more expensive houses than originally planned.

In the early days, the high-end real estate market was made up of wealthy snowbirds, older folks who had retired with enough money to own a place where golf, tennis and the beach are year-round possibilities. Now the last piece of shoreline at Wailea - an 11-acre parcel makai of The Shops at Wailea - is under construction with an eye on an entirely different kind of high-end real estate buyer.

As detailed in The Maui News March 18, Lokahi Ventures LLC is building and selling Wailea Beach Villas, which are "condos that are like houses on Wailea Beach with hotel services." The developer's description seems apt for the 2,000- to 3,100-square-foot "apartments" that sport three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and private elevators for 63 of the 98 units. They are being readily purchased for prices between $1 million and $4.5 million each.

It seems today's high-end real estate buyer has gone from wealthy retirees in the last decades of their lives to baby boomers with children and the cash to live very well indeed.

The concept of appealing to young, very wealthy families seems sound. All but three of the "apartments" have been sold since they went on the market in December. To quote a three-decade-old song lyric, "The times, they are a changin'."

March 25, 2004

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