Hawai‘i Real Estate Goes to School

Dec 4, 2015

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Kamehameha Schools has a new leader for its commercial real estate division. Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier has more on Walter Thoemmes.

Walter Thoemmes certainly has school spirit.  Not only did he graduate from Kamehameha Schools – he also worked there for the past 20 years.  Trained as an architect, he brought with him a knack for project management that has come in handy.  In his first ten years there, he help develop the new campuses on Maui and the Big Island.  He next served as then-CEO Dee Jay Mailer’s Chief of Staff.

Now he is the managing director of commercial real estate, a major component of the trust’s assets.  Valued at $3.1-billion, the school’s commercial real estate holdings represent 30% of all the trust’s investments.

And investment is exactly the word for it.  Thoemmes first action has been to streamline his department, focusing it on managing these commercial real estate properties as if they were a traditional investment portfolio, mixing low and high risk opportunities.

There’s another shift in focus at Kamehameha – Thoemmes tells us.  In the past, it has spent on education whatever the trust could raise through investment.  The new model, he says – is to make educational decisions first, then look to Thoemmes and the trust’s other investment managers to deliver the funding needed.

Except Thoemmes to make hi biggest moves in Kaka‘ako, where the trust owns nine blocks.  He’d also like to bring redevelopment to Mō‘ili‘‘ili near the University of Hawai‘i, and to the Kapālama neighborhood around the school’s original hillside campus.  However, aging infrastructure in the latter neighborhoods may limit the trusts’ options there.