It might sound like a lofty goal, but Klaus Simmer of Coldwell Banker Island Properties is up for the task: He is working to improve the quality of life, both economically and socially, for thousands of Maui County residents. Eight years ago, Simmer joined the board of directors of Lokahi Pacific, an independent, private nonprofit housing and community development organization; he now serves as the board’s president.
“I enjoy working with a competent, focused team of people who bring their areas of expertise to the table to help the Maui community, as well as navigating and working with the various government agencies involved in fulfilling our mission,” Simmer said.
Since it was chartered under the laws of the State of Hawaii and incorporated in 1971, Lokahi Pacific has addressed critical needs in the community, including affordable housing, special needs rental housing and community facilities development.
In 1998, Lokahi Pacific developed the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Center on Main Street in Wailuku to provide much-needed office space for local nonprofit agencies under a unique low-cost, tri-party rental agreement (the project also includes a 20-unit residential component that provides affordable, long-term rental housing for residents with special needs). In 2007, Lokahi Pacific completed its second community facilities development project, the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Pono Center on Market Street. There, the organization provides low-cost incubator office spaces, training and conference rooms; a two-station fully equipped licensed commercial kitchen (which is available to the public); and a full-service restaurant space. Lokahi Pacific also operates seven affordable rental apartment complexes for chronically mentally ill, physically disabled and low-income residents.
And over the past 12 years, Lokahi Pacific has completed a number of affordable housing projects on Maui and Molokai, including the brand-new 16-home Mokuhau subdivision in Wailuku. “Where can you buy a fee-simple three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,180-square-foot living, two-story house for $380,000 on Maui? In this case, it was on Mokuhau Street in Wailuku,” Simmer said. “With enclosed garages of an additional 300 square feet and lot sizes from 3,200 square feet to 5,000 square feet, these houses appraised for $490,000 to $522,000 when sales closed on them earlier this year. Sixteen excited happy families now live in their own new homes in Happy Valley.”
Simmer says a friend encouraged him to join Lokahi Pacific’s volunteer board of directors in 2010. “After taking a closer look at the organization, I realized I could be helpful regarding Lokahi’s board governance, as well as the organization’s recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown,” he explained. “I was also interested in the real estate aspect of Lokahi’s operations. Finally, I understood the Maui community need for Lokahi’s services specifically as they relate to providing affordable housing, as well as housing for physically and mentally challenged people. My youngest sister is mentally handicapped and benefits immeasurably from living in a development/community in Germany that is focused on assisting people like her.”
Simmer credits Lokahi Pacific’s successes to its dedicated staff and executive director. “Lokahi Pacific nearly folded after the major economic shifts around 2008,” he said. “We’ve since recovered from insolvency thanks in great part to the focused and tenacious leadership of our executive director, Susie Thieman, whom we were fortunate enough to hire in 2012. She also has an awesome staff, many of whom have been with Lokahi even longer.”
Lokahi Pacific relies on federal, state, county and private grants and loans to fulfill its mission. “Please ask your council members to support Lokahi’s requests and endeavors to build more low-cost housing, as well as making property available for development of more low-cost housing,” Simmer said. “This is our community and we can all help and be involved in our own individual ways. We now have the opportunity to move forward with the development of 140 to 150 new affordable homes in association with the Maui Tropical Plantation and Mike Atherton in the Wailuku area if we can garner the support of the Maui County Council, as well as the county administration. We need community and council support to get this done. Maui urgently needs this—let’s make it happen!”
To learn more about Lokahi Pacific, visit www.lokahipacific.org.