Construction on controversial Maui mall begins

Critics say there are concerns about zoning, traffic

 UPDATED 7:22 PM HST Jul 13, 2012
KIHEI, Hawaii -

Construction has begun on what will become the largest mall on the island of Maui.

The 700,000-square-foot project in Kihei named the Piilani Promenade is touted as becoming the choice of where to eat, play and shop.

But, it's also generating controversy on the Valley Isle.

Piilani Promendae is being built along Piilani Highway in Kihei split by what will become Upcountry Road.

On the north side -- a 300,000-square-foot outlet mall with a mix of retail, restaurants and water features.

On the south side -- 400,000-square-feet of retail space that California developer Eclipse says will be a mix of national and local retailers.

"Once developed this project will provide retail that doesn't exist in Kihei today and if you live in South Maui you don't have to drive into Kahului to get the stuff you need everyday," said Charlie Jencks, liaison for Eclipse Development Group.

The developer is building a water tank to service the North Kihei area and the project is expected to create about 2,000 jobs.

Although the project broke about two weeks ago, there are three parties which have filed appeals to stop the construction.

One group, non-profit Maui Tomorrow, claims the retail project underway is far different from the industrial park approved in the late 1990s under former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch.

"It does say in light industrial zoning you can have limited commercial, but limited is the key word," said Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow.  "This project has morphed into completely commercial with no light industrial component."

There are also major concerns about sprawling development and the impact on traffic.

"Piilani Highway right now is really suffering from gridlock at different times of the day," said Bowie.

But, the consultant for the developer says traffic will increase even without the mall because of two planned communities in Makena and a brand new high school near the site and road improvements are part of the planned malls.

The projected grand opening for Piilani Promenade is early 2014.

The Maui County Board of Variances and Appeals set a hearing date of July 27 to hear a motion by the county to dismiss an appeal on the permits for the project.

Another hearing with the state Land Use Commission on the zoning change is set for August.

Do you want to print this page now?