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Ko Olina unveils billion-dollar plans

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Ko Olina unveils billion-dollar plans

Ko Olina Resort & Marina has unveiled its grand plans for a billion-dollar development that includes a world-class aquarium.

The unveiling came in Gov. Linda Lingle's office Friday afternoon. Ko Olina is the beneficiary of a $75 million tax credit that Lingle approved, to be disbursed over 10 years.

Developers tout the project -- named the Grand Ko Olina Resort, Hotel & Spa -- as offering a world-class interactive aquarium, cultural education center, and adventure lagoon and shark island in a resort setting.

It is expected to create more than 1,000 new jobs for Leeward Oahu residents.

"The Grand Ko Olina will help re-brand Oahu as a unique resort destination just as the Grand Wailea did for Maui," said Jeffrey R. Stone, master developer of Ko Olina Resort & Marina. "It will boost West Oahu's prominence in the visitor industry and add a one-of-a-kind icon to Hawaii that is directly connected to Hawaii's unique ocean environment and culture."

On the drawing board for more than a year, the aquarium has long been touted as Ko Olina's centerpiece.

Specific costs and details of the new aquarium were not disclosed, although it is slated for a 25-acre site and is expected to offer both shark-encounter and reef-encounter programs in its adventure lagoon.

Ko Olina, the 642-acre, master-planned resort, is already home to a golf course and marina, the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, Marriott's Beach Club time shares, a new Roy's restaurant, the Paradise Cove Luau and seven man-made lagoons.

It is also home to several recent luxury residential developments, such as the Ko Olina Kai Golf Villas & Estates by Centex Destination Properties.

Legendary resort developer Takeshi Sekiguchi -- whose projects include the Grand Wailea on Maui -- will rejoin the team.

rand Ko Olina will enlist the expertise of marine professors from the University of Hawaii's Ocean Science Department, along with cultural advisers from the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.

Other plans include an oceanfront hotel and condominium and Hawaiian village surrounding the Adventure Lagoon and Shark Island.

Stone said the lagoon aquarium would feature the latest eco-sensitive ocean technology, similar to the Discovery Cove in Orlando, Fla., and Ocean World in the Bahamas.

A unique story line will tie the guest experience to the Hawaiian islands and native cultures, along with outreach education programs about the state's aquatic life. Visitors would be able to participate in an underwater adventure while staying at luxury accommodations.

"We are confident that having a world-class aquarium adventure lagoon as our centerpiece icon will serve as the catalyst it was meant to be for our economy, for jobs in our region, and for our overall visitor industry," Stone said.

Developers are hoping to begin the first phase of construction by the end of the year.

Among those selected to work on the project are:

* Pacific Atelier International, an architectural design firm based in Honolulu that designed the Maui Ocean Center and Ko Olina Resort's master plan.

* Dolphin Quest.

* EDSA/OLIO, a planning and landscape architectural firm.

* Hill Glazier Architects.

* Windward Design, a firm with experience in aquatic parks.

* Wilson Okamoto Corp., one of the largest multidisciplinary planning and engineering firms in Hawaii and the Pacific.

* PBR Hawaii, land management and planning.

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First of all...good photos! Where do you get them? Or were you there?

It looks like a great project, but I don't like the way the program for the development was put together. It seems weak and exclusive. It doesn't seem to benefit anyone, expect the immediate commercial entity. Is this design the reason the other hotel development is not happening? Jeff Stone promised another hotel development for Ko'Olina. I am not sure at the moment what hotel operator also planned to build a hotel complex if the project was given an exemption. If this project was given a $75 million dollar tax exemption, it should be more open and easier accessibilty for other patrons of Ko'Olina resort and to the general public.

Also the design of the structures...so boring...if I remember correctly Ko'Olina does not have to follow the same design guidelines as does Kapolei. They could have made the attraction more iconic. I mean its main purpose is to draw tourist to the site. THINK BALBOA GUGGENHEIM

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