Pacific Business News interviews Kali Watson

Here is the interview of Kali Watson by Janis L. Magin , the Real Estate Editor for Pacific Business News.

Kali Watson, President and CEO, Hawaiian Community Development Board   photo by EUGENE TANNER

Kali Watson, President and CEO, Hawaiian Community Development Board


Oct 4, 2019, 5:30am HST

Kali Watson’s career as an affordable housing developer pre-dates the establishment of the Hawaiian Community Development Board, the nonprofit he helped start 19 years ago to help the Native

Hawaiian community with housing.

Watson, who is an attorney, worked in the state attorney general’s office before serving as the director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands from 1995 to 1998. During his tenure, the department reached a settlement with the state that resulted in the transfer of $600 million in installments of $30 million per year for 20 years, as well as the transfer of more than 16,000 acres of land for homesteads.


Kali Watson, President and CEO, Hawaiian Community Development Board

Watson returned to private practice with his wife, Judith Ann Pavey, and partner Richard Hoke for a few years after leaving the government and started a pre-fabricated home company called Quality Homes of the Pacific to manufacture affordable houses for homesteaders.

He found his passion in 2000 when he started the nonprofit Hawaiian Community Development Board, which started out by rebuilding dilapidated houses for beneficiaries on Hawaiian homestead lands, then moved on to affordable multifamily projects, both redevelopment and new construction, on private lands.

Some of the projects include the Kewalo Apartments in Makiki, a renovation of two two-story buildings with 38 units for tenants earning no more than 60% of the area median income and the Hale Makana O Nanakuli, a $14.6 million, 48-unit affordable rental project next door to another HCDB project, the Longs Drugs-anchored Nanakuli Village Center that’s set to finish next month. Watson’s group partnered with 3 Leaf Holdings for both projects.

Watson’s nonprofit is currently partnering with several affordable housing developers on other projects, including Coastal Rim Properties and Highridge Costa on the Kulana Hale project, two towers under construction in Kapolei for seniors and families making 60% AMI; Pacific Development Group on the Halawa View Apartments near Aloha Stadium, the first phase was a renovation of a 121-unit 14-story tower built in 1970, while the second and third phase to build 302 new apartments won approval in July from the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. for $130 million in financing to build 302 new apartments.

What made you decide to get into housing? It was more an understanding of the challenges facing our Hawaiian people. One of the core causes is the lack of housing. A third of the homeless are Hawaiians, and here we are living in their home state, and yet they suffer the most and that historically has always been the case with any indigenous people. For me, the challenge was to identify solutions. One of the first steps I did was I educated myself, I went to school, got my law degree then worked at the Legislature. And I also worked at trying to position myself where I could best help Hawaiians address the concerns or challenges. And so that’s why, when I was in private practice ... I wanted to have an impact, so I applied for the job as head of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and got the job and started trying to improve the program. We got the $600 million settlement with the state in which the Legislature not only funded $600 million settlement through Act 14, they also started transferring over 16,518 acres, which is also an issue even today. And you know, after finishing at DHHL, I got an additional opportunity because I was approached by the Nanakuli Homestead Association to help them with their village center, that’s the one that’s going to be opening in probably October of this year with retail as well as medical clinics.

The DHHL got the $600 million settlement from the state, where did that money go? It went to a variety of things, with respect to building infrastructure, I believe some of it has been used to finance housing construction. There’s about $100 million left, that has been invested, a fund to generate money that they can use to run their programs. If I were the director I’d take that $100 million, and leverage it, to build houses, They could easily turn that into a $300 million fund, combined with low-income housing tax credits, access the rental housing revolving fund, grab some other funding sources that collectively they could build a lot of housing.

What’s the biggest challenge of trying to build housing for the Native Hawaiian population? The biggest challenge in my mind is getting people on board, in collectively working together, and also being educated as to their legal entitlements. DHHL lands are not subject to zoning, especially their use for the purposes of providing benefits to the Native Hawaiians. You’ve got all these different resources that are not being accessed, partly, because of a lack of that developer skill set. And that’s why I’ve evolved in understanding the development process. I wish I had known this stuff when I was a director. Although we did 3,100 homesteads, I would have done a lot more. And in this last 20 years, I think we could have addressed not only the long waiting list the 20,000 on the waiting list, but also address the homeless.

Closer Look

Kali Watson

President and CEO, Hawaiian Community Development Board Address: 1188 Bishop St., Suite 907, Honolulu, HI 96813 Phone: 808-529-0404

Janis L. Magin

Real Estate Editor Pacific Business News

Our affordable housing project is in the Hawaii News Now

Screen Shot 2019-06-06 at 11.56.33 PM.png

 Mahealani Richardson reported about our Hale Makana O Maili project in the article, Neighbors oppose planned affordable housing project in Maili, citing infrastructure concerns in the Hawaii News Now on May 30, 2019.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Neighbors of a proposed affordable housing project in Maili gathered Thursday to voice their concerns about possible infrastructure and traffic associated with the development, saying their rural road can’t handle a project that will house about 200 people.

"It's not like we don't have open hearts or we don't want affordable housing. It needs to be responsible development," said neighbor Michele Kuahine.

Non-profit Hawaiian Community Development Board has planned six buildings with 52 units for Hale Makana O Maili.

Read full article here.

Hale Makana O Maili in Honolulu Civil Beat

An artist’s concept of the 52-unit Hale Makana O Maili affordable housing project.

An artist’s concept of the 52-unit Hale Makana O Maili affordable housing project.

Blaze Lovell writes about our Hale Makana O Maili project in the Honolulu Civil Beat. The May 10th, 2019 article discusses how local residents are concerned with the project. Kali Watson wrote a six page letter to the residents that expressed their concerns.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

A 52-unit affordable housing project on private property in Maili has received most of the city approvals it needs, but it’s still generating friction between the developer and residents of the quiet neighborhood.

Hale Makana O Maili is expected to break ground before the end of this year, according to developer Kali Watson, president of the nonprofit Hawaii Community Development Board. The $23 million project would be open to households earning 30% to 60% of area median income.

It’s the type of project that affordable housing advocates often say is desperately needed on Oahu.

But that’s no solace to some of the residents on Kulaaupuni Street who still hope to stop it. They complain it was rushed through the Honolulu City Council, could make the area more flood-prone and overtax the neighborhood infrastructure.

Read the full article here.

Chris Flaherty talks about Medici Artist Lofts on Fox40 News

One of our new projects, The Medici Artist Lofts was in the Fox40 news on May 31st, 2018.

Here is an excerpt from reporter, Karma Dickerson:

STOCKTON — An old downtown Stockton building is being put to new use.

Thursday was the official groundbreaking at the former Medico Dental building on North Sutter Street. From Medico to Medici, like the famous patrons of the arts, the developers want to create a space for artists to grow and for downtown Stockton to thrive.

“We believe in downtown, we believe in housing downtown,” said Chris Flaherty, CEO of 3 Leaf Holdings.

Since 1927 the Medico Building has loomed over Miner and North Sutter streets in Stockton but as developer Flaherty says, it’s got good bones.

“It’s constructed very well. The project will have exposed ceilings, as you see here, with rigid duct, and it will be a very lofty style space,” Flaherty explained.

On Thursday, Flaherty, joined by other developers, architects and city leaders, announced the official groundbreaking on the project to transform the 12-story building into 34 lofts, primarily geared toward giving artists affordable living space.

Read the rest of the article here.

Medici Artists Lofts in the CBS Sacramento news

On November 3rd, 2017 Carlos Correa, from CBS Sacramento news, reported about one of the oldest buildings in Stockton that will be renovated into artist lofts. Medici Artist Lofts is one of 3Leaf Holding’s collaborative projects. Please read an excerpt from the article below:

STOCKTON (CBS13) — One of the oldest and largest buildings in downtown Stockton is about to undergo a huge renovation as part of the city’s plans to help revitalize and bring more life to the area.

The structure, which is roughly 90 years old, is turning into a mixed-income apartment building. It’s a first of its kind project focused on attracting area artists and retail.

A few days ago, Stockton business owner Patricia Ayala became part of the downtown landscape with a new hair salon located inside an old building that was recently refurbished.

“It felt like this is the place that we were meant to be; it’s so multicultural around here, you see lawyers walking by, you see the kids walking by. It’s so urban, yet so sophisticated,” said Ayala.

Ayala is expecting her list of clients to grow once Stockton’s first mixed-income apartment project is complete. Developers are turning the 90-year-old Medico-Dental building into the Medici Artist Lofts, creating 33 units, most of which will be affordable housing.

Please read full article here.

Medici Artists Lofts in Comstock's

photos courtesy of  TensSpace

photos courtesy of TensSpace

In Comstock’s October 25, 2017 article, Mixed-Income Apartment Project Coming to Downtown Stockton, Zack Quaintance reports about the Medici Artists Lofts in Stockton, Ca. Here is an excerpt from the article:

The Medico-Dental Building in Stockton, one of the city’s defining structures since it was built roughly 90 years ago, is about to undergo a rebirth as mixed-income apartment housing with retail on the ground level and a theme designed to attract artists.

The building is being given new life thanks to a joint venture between the Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin, Ten Space Development and DFA Development, which was the same developer for Cal Weber 40, another refurbishment project that converted old buildings in Stockton’s downtown into housing. This latest project is called The Medici Artist Lofts, a name that Chris Flaherty of DFA Development says pays homage to the building’s previous name, containing elements of both medical and dental, and an allusion to the House of Medici, one of the Italian royal families that helped give birth to the Renaissance.

The Medici Artist Lofts project consists of 33 total units, 27 of which will be considered affordable housing, meaning they will be reserved for residents and families who earn between 30-60 percent of the countywide median income. The remaining six units will be rented at market rate, earning the project the designation of mixed-income. The entire building will be geared toward residents who live the art life, and because of this it will feature amenities such as gallery space and an area for receptions and other events aimed at cultivating Stockton’s creative culture.

“For aspiring artists, it’s very difficult for them to practice and hone their crafts and hold down a job that would pay as much as they would need to afford housing,” Flaherty says.


CalWeber and Medici Artist Lofts on KCRA 3 News

Reporter, Kathy Park from KCRA 3, mentioned some of our projects in the article, Stockton Rising: Major development projects on the horizon, published on October 4, 2017. Here is an excerpt from the article:


Stockton's downtown landscape is on the verge of a major transformation.

A mixed-used development cleared a big hurdle Tuesday night. It has the possibility to spur more growth in the city.

Here are 3 things you should know about the changes ahead:

1) Cost of new housing complex

The $67.5 million Open Window Project is slated to bring more than 1,000 residential units and 400,000 square feet of commercial and retail space to downtown Stockton. The city approved $6 million to cover off-site infrastructure like sidewalks and streets.

2) New Stockton Housing

The Open Window Project will be the first market-rate residential project in downtown Stockton in decades.

Cal Weber 40 is one of the latest residential projects -- and is downtown Stockton's first affordable housing development.

Renovation of the vacant Medico-Dental building is slated to break ground this spring, clearing the way for construction of the Medici Artists Loft, which will have both affordable and market-rate units.

The full article and video is here.

Nanakuli shopping center in Pacific Business News

In Pacific Business News’s article, Longs Drugs opening Makaha store, preps to start on new Nanakuli shopping center, 3Leaf Holdings is mentioned as part of team of developers. Here is an excerpt of the article:

CVS is opening its newest Hawaii Longs Drugs store in Makaha this weekend, and construction of the $20 million Longs Drugs-anchored Nanakuli Village Center, which will also have an urgent-care clinic and a dialysis facility as well as other retail and restaurant tenants, is set to start in the next couple of weeks.

The 18,130-square-foot Longs Drugs store is opening Sunday in the old Cornet building at the Makaha Gateway center at the corner of Farrington Highway and Makaha Valley Road. KZ Cos., which has built or renovated more than a dozen Longs Drugs stores in Hawaii, handled the renovation of the building, which has been vacant since Cornet closed its variety store in 1995.

KZ delivered the renovation of the Longs store ahead of schedule with Allied Builders Systems as the general contractor, Lucky Cole, the owner of Team Real Estate who bought the 3.5 -acre Makaha Gateway property in 2000, told Pacific Business News. Cole said Longs has signed a 40-year lease on the space.

Cole said work is still being done to renovate the rest of the Makaha Gateway, which includes the 32,000-square-foot Gateway marketplace, a 24,000-square-foot three-story office building and a 24,000-square-foot warehouse. Glenview Construction is the general contractor on that project.

Cole hired local artist Solomon Enos, who grew up in Makaha, to paint a mural on the point of the building at the corner of Farrington Highway and Makaha Valley Road. Enos also painted petroglyphs on the columns of the buildings.

Cole also said he is in the process of dividing the property into two two-unit commercial condominiums, with the Longs store and the marketplace forming Makaha Gateway Makai and the three-story building and warehouse forming Makaha Gateway Mauka. Cole also plans to develop a vacant lot behind the warehouse for parking.

Down the highway in Nanakuli, Kali Watson, president and CEO of the Hawaiian Community Development Board, said Friday that he expects to close on financing for the Longs-anchored project with American Savings Bank and Punawai O Puuhonua by early next week. Punawai O Puuhonua, a community development entity formed in 2010 by American Savings Bank and the Oahu Economic Development Board, has received new markets tax credits for the project.

The shopping center is being developed on a 12-acre parcel of land adjacent to Nanaikapono Elementary School by a collaboration of HCDB, the Nanakuli Hawaiian Homestead Community Association, 3Leaf Holdings and Sofos Realty Corp., which handled the leasing. Deide Construction is the general contractor.

Read full article here.

Hale Makana O Maili development in the Pacific Business News

photo by Pacific Business News

photo by Pacific Business News


Katie Murar reported in the Pacific Business News about one of our new development proposals. The Hale Makana O Maili development on the Waianae Coast is an affordable rental complex. Here is an excerpt from the article, Affordable rental project proposed for Oahu's Waianae Coast:

A 52-unit affordable rental development called Hale Makana O Maili is being proposed for Maili on the Waianae Coast.

The low-rise rental apartment complex will be built on a 1.95-acre portion of a 2.78-acre parcel on the Waianae Coast, will consist of six buildings, and will be designated for those making 30 to 60 percent of the area median income. The design will include 39,030 square feet of residential space, a 2,342 square foot community center, and 70 parking stalls, according to a draft environmental assessment filed with the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The project is being developed by Pacific Development Group, 3 Leaf Holdings, Inc. and the Hawaiian Community Development Board.

“This project attempts to address one of the most difficult challenges for our local people – access to affordable housing,” Kali Watson, CEO of the Hawaiian Community Development Board, told Pacific Business News. “Only through a collective effort of private developers like ourselves, government agencies, and the community at large can we provide such solutions.”

Read the full article here.