Kailua seeks balance
Businesses and jobs vs. preserving a residential community
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Kailua Landlord’s Master Plan
Mitch D’Olier, president and CEO of Kaneohe Ranch, Kailua’s largest landowner, says major changes in the commercial part of Kailua date back to 2004, when leases on about 15 acres of the company’s land came up for renewal.
“Driving everything in Kailua was getting all these buildings back,” says D’Olier, who joined the company as its top manager around the same time.
“We had to decide what the right thing to do is and how do we position ourselves for the next 50 years.”
Kaneohe Ranch began with a community survey that year – getting back 3,000 mailed-in replies – and then scheduling several community meetings to gather additional sentiment. He says residents indicated they wanted a movie theater, and wanted to shop in Kailua, but didn’t want a Costco, Kmart or Walmart.
“A lot of them said they don’t want to leave Kailua, like ever,” he says. They also wanted the town to be pedestrian friendly and reflect a Hawaiian heritage. That’s why the ranch stages regular dance and music events next to Longs, in the same spot as the Thursday evening farmers market.
He says Kaneohe Ranch is picky about who gets leases in the renovated buildings. Guided by the community survey, the ranch chose Target and Whole Foods, and a series of small shops, such as Fighting Eel, whose designs are popular with younger women.
“We’re trying to create the coolest little place in Hawaii,” says D’Olier. “We’re trying to look for merchandise that would allow Kailua residents to never leave. And then there are judgment calls. There are things we do not think are appropriate. No Walmart, Kmart or Costco. There are a bunch of (Kailua) ladies who talk to me all the time about what they want. We have made choices that way.”
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