Nohona Hale brings 110 micro-units to Honolulu's Kaka'ako neighborhood.
Carson Schultz Nohona Hale brings 110 micro-units to Honolulu's Kaka'ako neighborhood.

Two developers have teamed to bring much-needed affordable housing to Kaka’ako, Honolulu’s hippest neighborhood.

“The need is huge,” says Marian Gushiken, director of real estate development with nonprofit developer EAH Housing Hawaii. “As an island state, we face some unique challenges with respect to our housing need.”

Historically an industrial area, the Kaka’ako district is undergoing a lot of change, transitioning from commercial and industrial to residential, with market-rate condos popping up and a planned rail station nearby. The new 111-unit Nohona Hale was built on a former surface parking lot owned and leased to the developers by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which sought to promote an affordable housing building that is green and transit-oriented with smart growth principles. California-based EAH Housing and New York–based Bronx Pro Group did just that.

The development includes 110 micro-units and one manager’s unit. The micro-units are 285 square feet, with most including a wall-bed system with a couch that flips down into a queen-size bed. They also feature floor-to-ceiling window walls that slide open to private lanais, galley kitchens, and bathrooms.

“Within the building itself, we designed a lot of common area,” Gushiken says. The building features ground-floor commercial space, a community lounge that looks out on an outdoor balcony with resident gardens, a community kitchen, a fitness room, and central laundry.

Designed by WCIT Architecture and built by Swinerton Builders, the developers are targeting LEED Gold certification. The building includes solar panels, solar hot-water heating, LED light fixtures, energy-efficient appliances, and low-flow water fixtures.

“As part of our efforts to achieve LEED, we are installing our first vertical installation of photovoltaic panels because the site is so small and we don’t have enough roof space,” Gushiken adds.

Another unique aspect for the development is that there is no parking. “We programmed into our goals to promote alternative transportation methods in the urban core,” she says. “And we are providing bicycle and moped parking and a place for surfboards.”

Leasing is in full swing, with the first residents occupying units in February. Rents range from $559 to $999, with 11 units targeting households at 30% of the area median income (AMI) and 99 units at 60% of the AMI.

The $52.7 million development was financed with 4% low-income housing tax credits and tax-exempt bonds. The bond holder is JPMorgan Chase, and Red Stone Equity Partners and Sugar Creek Capital provided the tax credit equity. In addition, the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corp. provided a Rental Housing Revolving Fund loan.

In addition to Nohona Hale, EAH Housing has an active pipeline in Hawaii. It recently celebrated the grand opening of the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts, which it co-developed with Artspace Projects. The 84-unit live-work development serves residents at 30%, 50%, and 60% of the AMI with a preference for artists. And the nonprofit is renovating Kukui Tower, which it originally purchased in the mid-1990s. EAH syndicated that 32-story, 380-unit high-rise in late 2018 to preserve it as affordable housing. The renovations are expected to wrap up this fall.