The Michaels Development Company and Vitus Group, together with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, held a blessing ceremony Thursday to celebrate the successful completion of its $135 million renovation of The Towers at Kuhio Park, formerly called Kuhio Park Terrace.
This project marks the first public-private partnership in Hawaii between the state and private developers to transform public housing.
Construction began in 2011 and included major infrastructure upgrades, approximately $97,000 of improvements to each of the 555 units and enhanced facilities for social service programs and recreational activities.
"Our goal is to provide quality housing and create a sense of community for the more than 500 families that call The Towers of Kuhio Park home. We are extremely pleased to deliver this project ahead of schedule and within budget," said Monika Mordasini, vice president, Michaels Development Company. "While we faced many challenges along the way in modernizing this 48-year-old complex, the entire renovation was completed efficiently, successfully and with minimal disruptions to the residents."
During the two-year renovation project, more than 350 jobs were created and $56 million was expended to local businesses. Local design and construction partners included Architects Hawaii, Ltd., Albert C. Kobayashi, Inc., Community Planning & Engineering, Inc. and MVE-Pacific, Inc.
To modernize the apartments, original narrow galleys kitchens were replaced with L-shaped kitchens allowing for more space, flow and cabinetry. Each unit received brand new interior finishes, flooring, windows, doors, energy efficient appliances, plumbing and electrical fixtures. To increase living space and natural lighting, each apartment’s lanais were enclosed. Thirty-three apartments were reconfigured for handicap accessibility and 12 visual/hearing impaired units were created. Updates to the exterior included island inspired decorative screening, a vibrant paint scheme for the façade, and a redesigned entrance to the Towers that give it a bright and welcoming experience. Sustainable building strategies were used including the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, low flow plumbing, energy-efficient appliances and low impact, indigenous landscaping.
"Through this partnership between private and public agencies, we were able to provide high-quality affordable housing to the residents of The Towers at Kuhio Park," said Makani Maeva, director of Vitus Group’s Hawaii office. "In addition to the building and unit upgrades, the residents also have a renewed sense of pride in their community which is evident through the positive feedback we’ve been receiving."
When originally built in the mid-1960’s, Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes in Kalihi was the largest existing public housing complex in the state of Hawaii with more than 700 units. In 2009, Michaels Development Company and Vitus Group were selected by HPHA to design, develop and provide property management services for a multi-phased $332 million dollar revitalization program.
The $135 million renovation of The Towers at Kuhio Park completes the first phase and is the centerpiece of the revitalization with 555 state of the art affordable housing apartments. Under the partnership, HPHA still owns the land and Michaels Development Company owns The Towers which it manages through their property management affiliate, Interstate Realty Management.
As part of the renovations, the Towers at Kuhio Park now features two new technology centers, a renovated 4,000 square-foot community hall, community garden, hospitality suites, expanded medical clinic, and larger laundry facilities. The renovations also included the conversion of 12,000 square-feet of ground floor space into social service rooms that offer a variety of programs including job training and fitness classes. Local non-profits with a 40 year legacy of providing services to the residents include Parents & Children Together (PACT), Hawaii Literacy, Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV) and Susannah Wesley Community Center.
"I am so thankful for the renovation to my home and to the entire community. It’s not just the physical changes that have been made, but a change in the whole feeling of the place," said Rochelle Akiona, a resident of the Towers for over 10 years.
The project was funded primarily through a combination of $66 million in tax-exempt bonds and close to $48 million in low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) equity. A team of corporate partners led by AEGON committed the low-income housing tax credit equity to the development. For the construction and permanent loans, Citibank used the proceeds of bonds issued by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC). The bonds were credit enhanced by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). The HPHA also provided seller financing for the acquisition of the improvements and subordinated a loan to fund major system renovations for work that was underway by HPHA during the transfer of the property.