WTS Ed.C. -Hawaii p.II
Just in case someone thinks " it is all
about a Kingdom Hall..."
In Depth: Commercial Real Estate
From the June 6, 1997 print edition
Bad economy = good time for churches to build
Frellie Campos PBN Staff Reporter
Worship and retreat facilities have been erected in growing numbers in a weakened economy where renovation and new construction projects have become scarce and labor less expensive.
And the entry of big-box retailers in recent years has pressured land owners to reduce their rents -- an advantage for church groups looking for properties to buy and facilities to build, according to commercial real estate agent William Jardine.
Jardine, who is based on the Big Island, said he has seen numerous church groups coming to town looking for properties to buy with the intention of establishing a worship facility or for business purposes.
"The whole aspect of being a church is extremely attractive. Churches have some flexibility in doing things they wouldn't be able to do otherwise," Jardine said.
But according to Nathan Wong, assistant to the branch manager at The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, there is a great need for these types of facilities.
Better known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the society recently opened a $20 million, 130,000-square-foot facility at the Mililani Technology Park.
The group established an educational and meeting facility -- situated on 3.4 acres next to Oceanic Cable -- called the Watchtower Educational Center Pacific.
The center will house programs based on practical direction from the bible geared toward businesses and community organizations.
Because of its massive size, the group has been approached by individuals wanting to rent the site for personal events but Wong said the building will remain purely for bible educational meetings.
The center features a main auditorium large enough to fit 1,500 visitors, smaller meeting rooms, and a multimedia facility housed with the latest in electronic devices.
The group also provides resource handouts and seminars for a variety of issues such as sexual harassment and job-related issues -- services that are purely voluntary.
In fact, Wong said some businesses and community leaders have already ordered reprints of articles the group produced. "Our materials are not that religiously oriented," Wong said.
With fiber-optic capabilities, the center has the ability to hook up to other headquarters around the country and to colleges via the Internet.
The society received assistance from volunteers all over the world to help design and construct the building that was two years in the making.
"We're looking around to open possibly more sites in the future," Wong said.
And the society -- which has 300 members in the area -- is continuing its quest to build a larger presence in the Islands with its 24,200-square-foot two-story meeting hall being built at the former Ranch House site in Aina Haina.
The Jehovah's Witnesses -- who rely heavily on donations to operate -- purchased the 60,890-square-foot site for $3.6 million to build a facility for both prayer and education. Construction is scheduled for completion in October.
While education is on the minds of the Jehovah's Witnesses, La`akea Hawaiian Resort Co. Ltd. -- a subsidiary made up of businesspeople from a large corporation in Japan -- is proposing to turn a residential property in Kaneohe into a moneymaking venture.
The group plans to develop a private meeting facility for community use, including weddings, retreats and related activities at 47-477 Waihee Place in Kaneohe.
La`akea Hawaiian Resort purchased the 39-acre property from a homeowner after seeing the potential for wedding activities at the scenic site overlooking Kaneohe Bay.
A 4,000-square-foot house that sits on the lot will be used as a meeting facility fit to hold 60 people. Minor improvements will be made to the two-story house to upgrade it for commercial use, said Crystal Rose, the agent that represents La`akea Hawaiian Resort.
The facility will be rented out to community members and businesses looking for a retreat site, meeting facility, or spot to hold wedding receptions. No overnight accommodations will be provided at the facility, which will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The planned site is expected to be ready in early 1998.
In addition to renovation work to the house, a 1,600-square-foot wedding chapel is planned for the site. The chapel will have seating for 12 people.
According to Rose, the group decided to put in a chapel because of the overwhelming number of Japanese weddings that occur in Hawaii. La`akea Hawaiian Resort is hoping to do four to six wedding a day.
"We want to keep it a rural atmosphere as best we can. We don't want to disrupt the neighbors," Rose said. "The group's intentions were to keep the operations small.
To help ease community members who are concerned the project will turn the quiet neighborhood into a commercial business circus, La`akea Hawaiian Resort has agreed to repave the half-a-mile Waihee Road, which residents have been asking the city to do for a while.
"We're trying to work with the community to find out how the property can best be used and what services we can provide. This is a sensitive issue ... but people should be able to use their property however they want," Rose said.
Bad economy = good time for churches to build - 1997-06-09 - Pacific Business News (Honolulu).htm