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Developers revive luxury condo plan (Symphony)


Developers revive luxury condo plan

The project across Ward Avenue from Blaisdell Center will be called Symphony
By Andrew Gomes

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 21, 2012
A symphony orchestra is planning a return to Hono­lulu. Now so is an effort to build a luxury condominium tower named for harmonious composition.
San Diego-based developer OliverMcMillan has partnered with local landowner and automobile dealer Joe Nicolai to build a roughly 400-unit luxury condo called Symphony at the mauka-Ewa corner of Ward Avenue and Kapiolani Boulevard.
The site is largely the same spot on which developer Jack Myers attempted to build a luxury condo named Symphony Park in the early 1990s.
The music-inspired names aim to trade on the proximity of neighboring Blaisdell Center where many a symphony has been played.
Blaisdell was a longtime home of the Hono­lulu Symphony, an organization established in 1900 but disbanded in 2009 due to financial difficulties. The professional orchestra has been reconstituted as the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra and is scheduled to perform its debut concert at the Blaisdell on March 4.
Dan Nishikawa, development director for OliverMcMillan, said the firm felt the Symphony name adds value and recognition to the new condo project.
"There was already some good branding for that property," he said. "I think there's a lot of positive recognition from the location standpoint. It's going to be a premier building."
OliverMcMillan and Nicolai recently submitted an application with the Hawaii Community Development Authority for a permit to allow a tower up to 400 feet high.
Some details of the project are still in the design phase, though the developer is scheduled to make a presentation to the agency on Feb. 29 at 9 a.m.
If approval is given, OliverMcMillan would like to begin selling units in late summer, followed by construction by the end of the year if there is enough interest from buyers, Nishikawa said.
The Symphony tower is OliverMcMillan's second residential high-rise project in Hawaii, and first built from scratch. The company finished the former Moana Vista tower after acquiring the partially built project from another developer facing foreclosure.
That project on Kapiolani makai of McKinley High School was re-branded as Pacifica and completed last year.
OliverMcMillan's new project is being proposed amid what appears to be a small rush of projects being readied in expectation of another upswing in the market for new high-rise condos in urban Hono­lulu.
Others in the works include Wai­ho­nua by Alexander & Baldwin in Kakaako, an unnamed tower planned by a California developer on the former Kuhio Avenue site of Hula's Bar & Lei Stand in Waikiki and a tower on top of the Nordstrom parking garage at Ala Moana Center.
The OliverMcMillan partnership is similar to an arrangement that produced Capitol Place downtown several years ago, where local car dealer Pflue­ger Group bought land and partnered with a developer to build a condo tower atop space for a Pflue­ger dealership.
Symphony would include a high-end car dealership for Nicolai, who sells a variety of European sports cars and other makes through JN Automotive Group and Wholesale Motors.
Nicolai said the vehicle lineup has yet to be determined, given that construction would take a couple of years. "In a little over three years, we should be in there," he said.
Nicolai has envisioned a similar plan for about a decade. He bought the Symphony site in 2000 and considered a residential tower before settling on another idea. In 2002 Gov. Ben Cayetano helped unveil a project calling for a three-story galleria of international vehicle showrooms, ethnic restaurants and lodging topped by an office tower branded with the state's World Trade Center franchise.
Nicolai partnered with commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis Hawaii Inc. on the project, but the plan never got off the ground as demand remained weak for office space while residential real estate took off.
Timing also proved to be a difficulty for the site's previous owner, Myers, a local developer whose projects include the Waikiki Prince Hotel, One Archer Lane and Waikiki Trade Center.
Myers bought the Symphony site in 1990 with an affiliate of Japanese-based Dai­ichi Real Estate. Myers envisioned that his luxury condo tower would create a "gateway" to an arts and culture district including the Blaisdell, the then-Academy of Arts and Thomas Square. But as he razed former businesses on the site that included Kapiolani Bowl in 1992, a real estate market downturn was unfolding and his project stalled.
In 1997 Myers announced plans to instead build a high-rise retirement community on the site while retaining the Symphony Park name. A year later, frustrated by Hawaii's then-stagnant economy, Myers relocated to San Francisco.

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