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Group unveils plans for new harbor near Mala Wharf

By Staff | Aug 2, 2012

Harbor Quest LLC’s vision is for a mixed-use, inland harbor village on 24-plus acres on the south side of Kahoma Stream between the ocean and Honoapiilani Highway. The harbor basin would be three times the size of Lahaina Small Boat Harbor.

LAHAINA – The principals of Harbor Quest LLC are on a mission to build another harbor in Lahaina at the north end of town at Mala.

Al Pelayo, Drake Thomas and Lance Thomas shared their daring plans with the community and the Maui County Council at a General Plan Committee meeting held on July 23 in Wailuku.

Their testimony before the council described the details: “A channel approximately 650 feet long and 125 (feet) in width would be constructed through what is now Mala Wharf access road. The channel would transect Front Street, opening into a harbor basin with a surface area approximately three times the size of Lahaina Small Board Harbor.”

The vision is for a mixed-use, inland harbor village situated on 24-plus acres of land on the south side of Kahoma Stream between the ocean and Honoapiilani Highway.

Their lofty goal is “to create for West Maui a harbor unlike any that exists in the State of Hawaii.”

The proposed plans for the private venture are still on the drawing board but include 143 fifty-foot slips, three anchor restaurants, 160 retail establishments, 16 residential condominiums, haul-out facility and a four-story parking garage.

Slips are being offered at $25 per foot per month.

The crown of the development at the entrance is the Celestial Navigation Institute and Polynesian Voyaging Canoe Visitor Center with adjacent 120 feet of dock space for Maui’s two voyaging canoes.

“This would finally be home for the Mo’olele and Mo’okiha O Pi’ilani,” Drake commented.

In an interview with the Lahaina News, the partners were enthusiastic about the benefits of the estimated $200 million project.

Lance listed some of the amenities: “There would be state-of-the-art docks with sewage pump out, cable TV, Internet, electrical, laundry.”

“It would offer safe refuge for vessels during Kona storms and in hurricane conditions,” Drake added.

According to Drake, “nightmare, congested conditions at the Lahaina Small Boat Harbor would be alleviated,” with the addition of a ferry terminal and loading dock for cruise ship tenders at the new West Maui Harbor and an electronic tram to transport passengers to and from downtown Lahaina.

The preliminary blueprints reflect the construction of an additional public boat launching ramp at Mala Wharf and the removal of the deteriorating old pier, “considered by some to be a hazard to navigation,” Drake remarked.

The fiscal advantages are far-reaching.

“The harbor will become an economic engine for Maui,” Lance predicted, generating a variety of supportive revenue streams associated with ancillary byproducts, like marine electronics, engine repair, ship chandlery, haul-out services, fishing supplies and fuel.

“The boating industry is such a big industry in West Maui. It would be an immense employer and keep the money on Maui,” he said, estimating 900 jobs would be added to the market.

“Jobs, that is what I am looking at,” Pelayo stressed, confirming one of the chief reasons for his support. “All these homes coming up here in West Maui – where are all the people gonna be working?”

The tax implications are immense.

“It provides a very sound property tax base for the County of Maui and a tremendous amount of General Excise Tax for the state,” Lance said.

Challenges confronting the trio may be crippling.

The property is owned by the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, with a bid to build a low-income single- and multifamily housing project currently on the books by another developer.

Although a periphery access road is intended that would “only add two minutes for someone wishing to travel between the corner of Front Street/Ala Moana Street and reconnect with Front Street at the Kahoma Stream bridge,” the “severing of Front Street” could be a deal-breaker.

Harbor Quest LLC, however, is not daunted.

“To have an idea that would benefit Lahaina and Maui in general and just sit on it is a travesty, as far as I am concerned.” Drake affirmed.

“The state is all behind it,” Lance added. “Drake and I and Al have had several discussions with Department of Land and Natural Resources, and they are very supportive of this,” Lance noted.

Cultural practitioner Kimokeo Kapahulehau favors the proposal. “I am 100 percent in support of this project. It is well-needed. Just image the jobs it’s going to create. It will give the younger folks in the community not only the opportunity to learn about canoes and celestial navigation but also about marine equipment and marine economics. I think that we’re looking at generations to come,” he said.

Chris Hart, former planning director and principal of Chris Hart & Partners Inc., weighed in with his opinion.

“I think if people really sat down and thought about it, it’s really an important piece of infrastructure. That given, the uniqueness of it – with Mala Wharf and everything – there’s not very many other sites where you could do anything like that.”

The trio agreed wholeheartedly.

“This is the only place; this is the last chance to build a harbor in West Maui. You can’t do it in Olowalu – the reefs there are the best, most protected reefs in West Maui, as is Launiupoko,” Lance said.

Pelayo was passionate with his remark: “This is our last chance to have open space for a harbor for all of the community. If we don’t jump on it and get on it right now, kiss it goodbye.”

“As far as I’m concerned, our next step is hearing from the community,” Drake added. “We’ve kept this under wraps. We haven’t talked to anybody, so we don’t know what the general response is. We’re hoping that with an article, we can gauge public support for the concept.”

The community is invited to respond. E-mail Al at al@harborquest hawaii.com, Lance at lance@harborquesthawaii.com or Drake at drake@harborquesthawaii.com.