Now that Thanksgiving is over, Hawaii starts its busiest season, and Kauai is no exception in terms of real estate activity as well as tourism.
The talk of the island--make that islands--is Chris Hemmeter's Westin Kauai at Kauai Lagoons--a redo and expansion (250 to 580 acres) of the old Kauai Surf, which was damaged by a hurricane in November, 1982.
Kauai Lagoons, fronting Nawiliwili Bay about a mile from Lihue, opened to guests in September but will have its splashy opening the second weekend in January.
That's when its mile of lagoons should be filled and ready for 90 four-passenger outrigger canoes and five 40-passenger mahogany taxi boats. The resort's 107 draft horses are already pulling carriages filled with visitors through part of the 580-acre development, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed greens, being prepared for 36 holes of golf.
The first nine are due to open on Feb. 1, the second nine in April, and both courses are expected to be open by August.
Take your wallet with you even now, though, because a carriage ride alone will cost you $30 a person. Swimming in what is being touted as Hawaii's largest swimming pool (26,000 square feet of water surface) is free to hotel guests, but private tennis lessons will cost $50 an hour.
Then there are the nightly rates for the 847 rooms that have been completed (and decorated by Hirsch-Bedner of Los Angeles). The rates are $185-$350 or $1,500 for the Presidential Suite.
Developer/owner Hemmeter and his financial partner, VMS Realty Partners of Chicago, spent $350 million on this phase, and the whole project--with a second, 750-room hotel due to be under construction next fall--is anticipated to cost $500 million!
"He's spent $2.5 million in art but expects to spend another $1 million before he's finished," Judy Potter-Gordon, the Los Angeles-based sales manager, said.
Hemmeter is personally selecting the art--much of it from Thailand. He also had a strong influence on the architecture, designed by Lawton Umemura & Yamamoto of Honolulu.
The project has met with some criticism, especially from locals. Some object to its Disneyland-like environment.
Others dislike the entry's three-story escalator, the only escalator on Kauai. The island rule is to build no higher than a palm tree.
Still others remark on the fiberglass, Roman-type columns in the lobby and the plastic bougainvillea over the entry.
No question about it, though: Kauai Lagoons is worth a look-see even if you don't stay there.
It is without a doubt Kauai's largest resort, and Hemmeter has said that it will be the world's largest when completed in 1990. Then, except for a monorail, it will have as many or more of the fantasy-like features he's including in his 60-acre Hyatt Regency Waikoloa, aiming to open on the Big Island in 1988.
Another hotel project on Kauai is the Hyatt Regency at Shipwreck Beach, developer Mel Ventura's $150-million, 605-room project designed by Wimberly Whisenand Allison Tong & Goo of Honolulu and Irvine.
It's more refined than Kauai Lagoons, though it too will have lagoons and restaurants. Its style: Classic Hawaii Architecture--like Hawaiian architecture in the '30s.
"We're not going to try to out-Hemmeter Hemmeter," Greg Kamm, a planner for the hotel, said. "But we will compete in terms of rates, occupancy and good taste."
Ventura is developing the project with Ainako Resorts Associates, a joint venture of Hawaii Takenaka Development and Toko Development Hawaii. Construction is planned to start in June with the hotel opening on Aug. 1, 1990.
More on Kauai:
A few weeks ago, wealthy Saudi Arabian Essam Khashoggi bought a 168-acre valley in the Hanalei area for $2.3 million, and there was talk that he planned to build a 20,000-square-foot house there. That would be twice as large as the house he sold in the Kahala area of Oahu (near Diamond Head) in June for $18 million.
That was a record price, we hear, for a single-family residence in the islands, and 20,000 square feet could be a record size.
Bali Hai Realty Inc. of Hanalei and Bradley Properties of Honolulu represented Khashoggi on the Kauai transaction.
Pat Harrington of Bali Hai Realty wouldn't comment on the deal but said, "With prices so high in Kahala, people are relocating and looking at the outer islands. More Japanese buyers are also beginning to trickle in."
Another broker on Kauai said that Apple Computers-Japan purchased some property adjacent to Khashoggi's for $28 million.
Back in California...
Cary Grant and Barbara Hutton owned this house when they were married in the early '40s: It's a Bel-Air mansion designed in 1938 by the late great architect Wallace Neff.
With more than 8,000 square feet, it has four bedrooms, two maids' rooms, a recreation room and wine vault and sits on 1.3 acres with a tennis court, swimming pool and cabana. The home is for sale at $5.9 million through Cris Forrest at Jack Hupp & Associates, Beverly Hills.
Starting Monday, you won't find the Beverly Hills Board of Realtors in its old offices at 405 S. Beverly Drive. The board bought the building at 509 S. Beverly Drive, about a block away, and started moving in last week.