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Waiakea Villas to get $25M makeover

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>The commercial section of the Waiakea Villas property is seen here Saturday afternoon.</p>


Tribune-Herald staff writer

The first part of Peter Savio’s $25 million plan to redevelop Waiakea Villas is beginning to take shape.

The Hawaii real estate developer finalized the purchase of the commercial side of Waiakea Villas and is expecting to begin renovating the property soon to attract new tenants.

The Honolulu-based developer’s dream is to restore the downtrodden residential and commercial complex next to Waiakea Pond to its original glory. Savio, who was born in Hilo, said he remembers when C. Brewer first developed the property in the early 1970s and how much it enhanced the community. “I’d like to bring that back,” he said.

Last November, Savio announced plans to invest up to $25 million in acquiring and renovating the Waiakea Villas properties, and building a new hotel on the site. At the time, Savio said the proposed deals to purchase the 275-unit residential and commercial property from investors could take “a couple of months” to complete.

Negotiations on the commercial purchase closed about six weeks ago, but Savio said purchase of the 275-unit residential part of the complex is still is still not complete. Plans were to acquire the commercial side first, then the residential, before developing a new hotel on the site in the style of Honolulu’s Pagoda Hotel, which he acquired in 2010. “We’re now negotiating for the residential units,” he said.

The purchase price of the commercial side of Waiakea Villas was $2 million, and Savio expects the residential units to cost $6 million to $7 million. He expects to invest about $500,000 into renovations of the commercial side, which has about 48,000 square feet of floor space. Existing units range from 300 to 15,000 square feet.

Savio purchased the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu in 2010, and would position the proposed Hilo hotel as a similar style of local, family-based operation. “I would definitely like to have a nice local restaurant,” he said, “a place where local families can celebrate birthdays, luaus, graduations and anniversaries.”

Savio remembers the original hotel’s positive impact on the local community when it opened in the 1960s. “It then fell on bad times,” he said. “I’d like to get it back to the quality place it once was.

“We’ve started the cleanup, termiting and landscaping,” Savio said. Koi ponds located throughout the property will be maintained and even expanded, he said. He hopes to have the work completed by the end of the year.

If the residential purchase falls through for some reason, he would still build the hotel on the commercial site, Savio said. Acquiring the residential site however would provide more siting options for the hotel.

Only three tenants, including the Hale Inu Sports Bar, are currently occupying space in the commercial section of the property, Savio said. The renovation work will not force them to close or move out, however. “We hope they stay.”

Savio is president and CEO of the Savio group of companies that includes Hawaiian Island Homes Ltd. and Hawaiian Island Development Co. Inc.

Dana Kenny, principal broker at Hawaii Island Homes, said potential tenants for the commercial space will be able to have units built specifically for their needs. “Most of the spaces have been gutted already,” Kenny said.

Day-Lum Rentals and Management Inc.,will be managing the leased units, said Kenny.

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