In 1843, as kids, Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin, sons of pioneer missionaries, met in Lahainā, Maui. They grew up together, became close friends and went on to develop a sugar-growing partnership that spanned generations and left an indelible mark on Hawaiʻi.
Fast forward 100-years to 1949, Alexander & Baldwin formed Kahului Development Co., Ltd. (KDCo) (the predecessor of A&B Properties, Inc.) to serve as a development arm of the agricultural-based entity.
This timing coincided with the sugar company’s plan to close down some plantation camps. To provide for housing for its sugar workers, as well as meet post-WWII housing demand, KDCo announced a new residential development in Central Maui, in the area we now refer to as Kahului.
“Dream City,” a planned residential community was launched and over the next couple decades 3,500+ fee simple homes were offered for sale in 14-increments of the new development.
While the community originally was planned to house the company’s workers from Hawai‘i Commercial and Sugar (mills and plantations) and Kahului Railroad Co., the company decided to not limit ownership to their own employees.
Part of the prior plantation philosophy was to house imported laborers in camps, usually segregated by ethnic groups. However, one goal of Dream City was to bring together the then-existing 25 plantation communities into a single planned modern urban setting.
Planning for the project took 2-years, under the services of Harland Bartholomew of Harland Bartholomew & Associates, St. Louis – a nationally recognized planning firm.
The first task was to identify the housing and living problems in central Maui, then develop a master plan on how best a new community could be designed.
Under this 25-year plan, Kahului quickly became one of the first and most successful planned towns west of the Rockies – and the first in Hawai‘i.
The homes were concrete and hollow-tile construction and thoroughly modern. There are 17 different designs available. Each had three bedrooms and a floor space of 1,090 square feet, plus a garage.
The price (generally $6,000 to $9,200 – with terms of $600 down and payments of $50 per month) included all the bathroom fixtures, the kitchen sink, laundry trays, clothesline, all the fixtures, including switches and floor plugs.
The price did not include the landscape or furniture or kitchen appliances. The landscape work was to be done under the direction of the University of Hawaiʻi agricultural extension service, Maui branch.
The plan for Kahului included spaces for modern business and shopping centers, schools, churches, playgrounds and recreation facilities. In 1951, the company built and opened the Kahului Shopping Center – Hawaiʻi’s third shopping center (behind Aloha (in Waipahu) and ʻĀina Haina.)
In January of 1948, Franklin D Richards, Director of the Federal Housing Administration described the new Kahului town housing project as the Nation’s “outstanding” development.
Mr. Richards said, “That house in Kahului is absolutely the best of its kind I have seen in 15 years’ experience as head of the FHA. I sincerely believe the Kahului home to represent the maximum in low-cost housing. There is nothing better in my experience in the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or Hawaii.”
Reportedly, on July 25, 1950, Masaru Omuri carried his wife Evelyn over the threshold of their new home. It made the headlines in the local paper. The Omuris were the first of many residents to move into the Dream City (the “new Kahului.”)
As the development proceeded, the plantation villages were closed down, one by one, according to a schedule that gave the workers and the workers unions ten years’ advance notice.
It was announced that the plantation planned to be out of the housing business within ten years of the start of the project, and February 1, 1963, was the date it was all supposed to shut down. It took a little longer than that, but the schedule was implemented pretty much as planned.
The first homes were built along each side of Puʻunene Avenue on lots between 9,000 and 10,000 square feet. The average price of these homes, as announced in July, 1949, was $7,250 each.
The development outpaced all of the planners’ expectations. At its peak, it was reported, houses and lots were being sold every two minutes.