Can you believe this weekend marks 65 years since Henry J. Kaiser announced the development of Hawaii Kai? I can't believe it's been that long, however on March 30th, 1959 (which for those of you that don't know, was the year of statehood in Hawaii, which took place later that year in August) Henry J. Kaiser and Bishop Estate (now Kamehameha Schools) announced the development of Hawaii Kai. What you can see from the headline, was it was going to be a gigantic resort.

I'm going to quote some from an article that came from the Honolulu Advertiser (one of the predecessors to the Star Advertiser), which originally appeared on March 30th, 1959. Then, we're going to dive into where we are at in Hawaii Kai today and how much of that vision of Kaiser's came to life.

According the headline of the 1959 Honolulu Advertiser article, it says:

Kaiser, Bishop Estate Plan $350 Million "Model City"

Koko Head Area to be Developed

Henry J. Kaiser and Bishop Estate announced yesterday that they were teaming up to build a fabulous $350 million resort and residential model city on the southeast corner of Oahu. The development, sweeping from Maunalua Bay around Koko Head to Makapuu Point envisions hotels, apartments, homes for 50,000 people on more than 6,000 acres of land.

THE COMMUNITY is to be known as Hawaii Kai. It will, in effect, become the new state of Hawaii's second largest city in terms of population. Plans are for the projected homes to range through the medium to upper class and luxury brackets. There will be a marina for boating and water sports "and all the facilities and services that make up a completely rounded out community" the joint announcement said.

THE BOARD of Water Supply said there were presently 10,000 gallons of water a day available for the area, enough to meet all the needs of the development. The community will from the ocean on Maunalua Bay and on the east coast of Oahu between Koko Crater and Makapuu Point. It will also extend into seven largely undeveloped valleys and along the ridges dividing them. 

THE ANNOUNCEMENT said "the aim is to undertake the first building in a matter of months, followed up rapidly with a number of units in an orderly master planned program." It added: "Steps will be taken for the satisfactory relocation of persons who in future years may be in the path of certain large scale undertakings." It was understood that long term Bishop Estate leaseholders in areas such as Portlock Road would not be relocated but would benefit from the development's added facilities.

YESTERDAY'S announcement was the fruit of more than two years of information discussions between the Territory's biggest builder and industrialist, Kaiser, and the Territory's biggest landowner, Bishop Estate. Kaiser, whose Waikiki holdings make him the biggest single land owner in that district, spent $14,000,000 to develop the 20 acre Hawaiian Village project. Hawaii Kai will be exactly 300 times as big.

THE 6,000 acres earmarked for the development are roughly one-tenth of total Bishop Estate holdings on Oahu. 

65 Years Later

So, here we are 65 years later. Now, let's dive in to see where we've come over the past 65 years and look back on Henry Kaiser's legacy. There's just so much to take in here. First off, when they made this announcement, it was 2 years after talks they were doing and here's a fun fact I learned awhile back from Bob Sigall, who writes on local businesses here in Hawaii.

Hawaii Kaiser?

This was a fun trivia fact that Bob Sigall shared: When Henry Kaiser was first proposing the development of Hawaii Kai, he wanted it to be called "Hawaii Kaiser". Obviously, that didn't blow over too well. That was news to me growing up here. I'd just assumed Hawaii Kai makes sense (Kai, meaning ocean or water,). But I guess he had a bit of an ego and wanted to call the development Hawaii Kaiser.

Building Then vs. Building Today

Another thing I found interesting in this article was that they said building was going to start right away (in a matter of months). Could you imagine today? With all the bureaucracy you have to to through with permits here on Oahu... I just had a client back out of a deal, where the contractor told them it's going to take a year just to get a remodeling permit.

Could you imagine Kaiser back in the day would just dredge areas to build his estate there in Portlock? We've come a long way with environmental regulations, bureaucracy and red tape. That's for sure!

Hotels in Hawaii Kai?

Another takeaway I got out of this article is they quoted (there will be) hotels in the area. That never did come to fruition. Hawaii Kai obviously does have commercial real estate there today. There's 3 major malls. You've got Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, Koko Marina Shopping Center, as well as Hawaii Kai Towne Center (where Costco is). There are no hotels in Hawaii Kai.

Living on the Marina

Hawaii Kai Marina Living

Homes and Condos fronting Hawaii Kai's Marina

There's lots of condos and single family homes the lifestyle there is unique like nowhere else in Hawaii. There's no other marina where you can have a boat dock right out your back door. 

Boat Dock at Kuapa Isle

Boat Dock Fronting a Kuapa Isle Residence

It's truly remarkable and unique. I've got a client/family friend that basically said the one limiting factor that keeps the values of homes (which cap out in the $3 million range on the marina) in Hawaii Kai is they'd be significantly higher if the bridge was higher, because of the wealthy people could bring in their larger boats.

Hawaii Kai Marina Real Estate

Hawaii Kai Marina Real Estate Limited in Value by Entry Bridge Height

That's what limits the sales (prices) of the marina front homes.

Portlock Road - Conversion from Leasehold to Fee Simple Ownership

Portlock Road Entry

Entry to Portlock Road

When you get along Portlock Road, that's where you're going to find some of the oldest, original homes in Hawaii Kai. I always say that some of the best real estate was taken first. Along Portlock Road, you have homes that date back to the early 1940's, at least in the last 5-10 years in MLS. 

MLS Screen Shot of Portlock Home Ages

MLS Screen Shot of Portlock Home Ages

There could be some that are older, but that's the prime real estate that was taken first. As was quoted in the article, Bishop Estate at the time (now Kamehameha Schools) was going to let all of those people in Portlock stay in those homes. They had their land leases on the properties. Ultimately, they did offer the fee and pretty much everything you see along Portlock Road today is fee simple, as is most of Hawaii Kai. 

If you take a step back, Henry Kaiser put in all of this money for the development of Hawaii Kai and teaming up with Bishop Estate at the time. They had the land. He had the money and the development experience. Keep in mind though, all this land was leasehold at one point in time. Fast forward to today, pretty much everything is fee simple. 

Water Supply and Private Sewer

In the article, the quoted the Board of Water Supply with the "water supply" (of 10,000 gallons/day). No pun intended there. The irony is today, the Board of Water Supply still supplies the water to Hawaii Kai. However, it's one of the few or only major developments or neighborhoods on the island that has a private sewer. So, you have a sewer fee that's paid to another vendor. As opposed to having both your water bill and sewer bill paid to the Board of Water Supply. That's unique to Hawaii Kai.

From 7 Ridges and Valleys to 23 Neighborhoods and 34 Condo Projects

Another takeaway I got out of the article was that it talked about 7 major ridges and valleys. Fast forward to today, in MLS we have 23 different neighborhoods in Hawaii Kai. We talked about the homes being developed in the 40's. Some of the earlier condo projects in Hawaii Kai were on Kawaihae St. Fast forward to today and we have 34 different condo projects scattered throughout Hawaii Kai. it has come a lot way...

A final talking point about Hawaii Kai is that in the article it mentioned that it's going to be the 2nd largest city in Hawaii. Today, it is definitely a larger area population wise. However, technically it still falls under the City and County of Honolulu. Everyone that lives in Hawaii Kai has a zip code of 96825 and it's "Honolulu, HI". So, it's not it's own separate city. However, Hawaii Kai does have its own region within MLS. There's 12 major regions within the island of Oahu. Within that region, there are 23 different neighborhoods, like I mentioned earlier. 

Contact a Hawaii Kai Expert

Hawaii Kai has been a passion of mine. It's where I had my first home when I was a kid, the first condo I lived in when I was a kid. I barely remember them, but I've spent a lot of time in Hawaii Kai over the years and it's a great community to live in. I've actually served as a firefighter in Hawaii Kai for most of my career in the Honolulu Fire Department. The station is number 34 right off of Lunalilo Home Road and it's got Henry J. Kaiser high school right behind it. It's a great community to live in and if there's anything we can help you with, whether it's buying or selling a home or a condo, feel free to reach out and give us a shout @ 808-371-3509. Mahalo!