Trouble in paradise

As developers and locals square off, concerns arise over the future of a Hawaiian beach.

The Turtle Bay Resort on the Hawaiian island of Oahu boasts fives miles of breathtakingly unspoiled beaches—which is just how the local population likes it. However, the resort’s owner, Oaktree Capital Management, sees things differently. Last year, the Los Angeles-based investment firm announced plans to revive a 20-year old project and develop five luxury hotels and 1,000 condominiums on the property. The move instantly attracted criticism from local residents, whose arguments ranged from the project’s environmental effects to traffic concerns. Last December, the Defend Oahu Coalition took to the streets to vent their anger.

The debate has been rumbling on since then, but it was recently stoked anew when it emerged that Oaktree had found a potential development partner. According to The Star Bulletin, Starwood Hotels & Resorts has offered to buy a portion of the site. Keith Viera, the director of Hawaiian operations for Starwood, told the paper: “We’ve been interested in Turtle Bay from the beginning and we’re still interested.” A deal would expand the hotel company’s platform in Oahu, where it operates five hotels on the south part of the island. Turtle Bay, on the North Shore, would surely make a nice addition. But the two companies might have their work cut out for them. In recent years, the North Shore community has prevented a number of developers from bringing in their bulldozers. A group calling itself No Mall at Shark’s Cove, for example, was able to stop a proposed shopping center development.

From that perspective, both Oaktree and Starwood would do well to heed the advertising slogan for the Turtle Bay Resort itself: “Dream with your eyes wide open.”