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HAWAII-Southern California real estate players are increasingly making Hawaii part of their geographical area. In a recent deal, Los Angeles-based Sonnenblick-Eichner arranged a $41.5 million loan for the 265-room Maui Coast Hotel in Hawaii, with financing provided by an unnamed European bank. The ten-year fixed-rate loan replaces a previous loan arranged by Sonnenblick-Eichner in the fourth quarter of 2003.

“With the compression of spreads coupled with a period of interest only payments and 30-year amortization, the borrower was able to realize significant equity through this refinancing,” says Elliot K. Eichner, principal of the firm.

The hotel stands six stories and is located in the town of Kihei. Built in 1993, the property is franchised by Vancouver, Canada-based Coast Hotels and Resorts and is managed by Paramount Hotels LLC.

“Since the refinancing was structured within the 2-year lock-out period required on securitized transactions, we arranged a forward rate-lock enabling the borrower to capture a lower interest rate before the run-up in treasury rates,” says Patrick Brown, a principal with Sonnenblick-Eichner.

The Sonnenblick-Eichner deal is the latest in a flurry of deals and projects being orchestrated by mainland real estate players in the Islands. Some organizations, such as Sperry Van Ness, have expanded their operations to the area.

The Irvine-based brokerage firm expanded its reach to Hawaii, when it named Molly Mosher-Cates as senior adviser earlier this summer. Mosher-Cates says the real estate market in Hawaii has exploded in the past few years, with $300,000 homes now bringing a cool million and industrial land that once fetched $12 per sf getting $30 per sf.

However, not all is rosy in the Islands. “There is very low inventory (for all product types). The market is definitely drying up,” Mosher-Cates tells GlobeSt.com. But the market still has some juice to it. And “people from the mainland,” are looking for deals on the Islands, according to Mosher-Cates.

Sperry Van Ness has developed a business model that looks at commercial markets whether they are primary, secondary, or tertiary markets. Officials with the firm tell GlobeSt.com: “Our philosophy is (to consider) every city and every state. You never know where an investor is going to buy. If an investor wonders what are the cap rates in Hawaii? We have somebody there.”One investor who liked what the Island had to offer is Donald Trump, who’s partnered with Los Angeles-based Irongate Capital Partners for a 460-unit condominium complex that will be part of the $1-billion Waikiki Beach Walk development being master-developed by Hawaii-based Outrigger Enterprises. Irongate acquired the development rights for its estimated $400-million project in 2005.

Another investor is Michael Dell of Dell computers. MSD Capital, the private investment firm of Dell and his family, has made a major stake in The Hualalai Resort. MSD Capital and an investment fund of Boston-based Rockpoint Group picked up the resort from Tokyo-based Kajima Corp. for around $550 million last month.

The property includes the 234-room Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, a partially developed 300-unit residential community and two golf courses. The hotel opened in 1994. Its average daily rate and average occupancy are believed to be upward of $750 and 90%, respectively, putting it atop the Hawaii hotel market and among the best in the US.

In another recent deal, developers of Capitol Place, a 33-story, high-end residential tower, picked up a $154 million construction loan from the Irvine office of Fremont Investment & Loan. A Fremont team led by Lesley M. Love, VP and regional manager and Kenneth A. West, VP and senior loan originator, closed on the deal. The firm has been a major player in Hawaii in recent years. Since entering the market in 2001, Fremont has committed nearly $1 billion in financing for some 30 properties throughout the Islands.

Just across the street from Capitol Place is another condo project with a Southern California connection. Santa Ana-based Michael Harrah is the developer of The Pinnacle Honolulu. The 36-story project will only have 39 condo units, but they will be luxury units. The project will have no more than two units per floor, with many buyers, having poinied up the $2.4 million asking price for an entire floor.

San Diego-based The Shidler Group is another Southern California company with a major interest in Hawaii. The firm is considered the largest owner of commercial property in the state. Matthew Root, a partner with The Shidler Group, says the firm likes the Honolulu market, a place “where inefficiencies still exist.”

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