Paia Town has a new neighbor–a big one. In December, Alexander & Baldwin quietly sold a 339-acre parcel of land that cups the entire west side of Paia to a California businessman for just $9.9 million, or a little more than $29,000 per acre. Located across the street from the Paia Youth & Cultural Center, the parcel runs along the Hana Highway from the west boundary of Baldwin Beach to the Paia Bypass Road, then up the bypass to Baldwin Avenue and then to the old sugar mill (in the above county map, the parcel is outlined in red).
And although it was previously used to grow sugar cane, the land is by no means limited to agricultural use. Under the Maui Island Plan, some of the land could be used for commercial and residential purposes as well. That’s what makes the selling price so surprising. By comparison, the County of Maui paid A&B $9.5 million for the 267 acres near Jaws–and that will remain undeveloped green space.
The Paia deal, which closed on Dec. 20, came as a surprise even to some at the County of Maui, which had hoped to have a discussion with A&B about turning some of the land adjacent to Hana Highway into green space, according to County Communications Director Rod Antone.
“The mayor has plans to develop a North Shore Regional Park that would connect Baldwin Park and Lower Paia Park on that parcel that A&B gifted to the county a couple of years ago,” he explained. “As part of that plan he had wanted to ask A&B for a greenway across the street from the parkland about the size of a football field, so that when people drive into Paia Town there would be green on both sides.
“By the time we learned about this purchase it was already in escrow. We are still hopeful that we can work with the new owner about obtaining a greenway for the community,” Antone added.
Last July, the parcel went into escrow with Paia businessman Michael Baskin, who has been fighting his own battles with the county over the Paia Inn and other properties he owns or manages in town. According to Baskin, those problems squelched his ability to close the deal and he flipped the property to Northern California businessman Sam Hirbod, 48, who purchased it under the entity EC Paia, LLC.
It’s hard to know what Hirbod plans to do with his considerable new acreage. EC Paia is registered to the same address in San Ramon, CA as a number of other Hirbod businesses, most notably Eagle Canyon Capital.
He’s the former president and CEO of Pacific Convenience & Fuels, which at one point operated almost 600 gas stations and convenience stores across Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada Colorado & Texas. A glowing 2010 article written in the industry trade magazine Convenience Store Petroleum marveled that Hirbod–a relative unknown at the time–was able to acquire most of those properties from ConocoPhillips for a reported $800 million in 2008 amidst the rubble of the real estate meltdown and a “catastrophic financing environment.” This, from a guy who opened his first gas station convenience store in 1997, according to the story.
Hirbod was described in the piece as a former “welterweight and avid kickboxer,” and “the kind of guy you want to have in your corner, not coming at you from the other side.” Revenues from Pacific’s operations were described as “just short of $4 billion in 2008.”
But Hirbod has his fingers in a lot of corporate pies these days. Among his other companies registered in California, according to the CorporationWiki website: Expression Coffee West, Eagle Canyon Holdings, Golden Canyon Partners, Ramona Street Development and Buon Hospitality, which franchises several Corner Bakery Café restaurants in Northern California. Also registered at his San Ramon business address is the Seamms Foundation, established in 2013 to provide financial assistance to children under 18 with life-threatening diseases.
Last November, the real estate information group CoStar reported that Eagle Canyon was putting a Bethesda, Maryland office building back on the market nine months after acquiring it out of foreclosure, but no word on a sale. Other entities registered at the Eagle Canyon Capital address are a number of commercial buildings in Northern California, ECC Macon, ECC Manchester & ECC Statesboro in Georgia and ECC Berlin VT in Vermont, but it is unknown what these properties represent.
Also listed at that address (and another in Pleasanton) is Eagle Canyon Management which promises to “work with you from the moment you discover our properties. We’ll help you identify the appropriate space, design your offices, create a plan for growth and expansion, and carefully manage the tenant improvement process.”
Hirbod lives in Danville, CA and, according to Maui online property records, is also the registered owner, with Shereen Hirbod, of a home overlooking the Wailea Blue golf course. He did not return calls for comment. Calls to Eagle Capital and Eagle Canyon Management went straight to voicemail.
Interestingly, the Los Angeles-based law firm Hobson, Bernardino + Davis lists Hirbod’s Pacific Convenience & Fuels as a client on its website. Partner Jason Hobson and fellow HBD attorney Mark Chasan are the driving forces behind TEACH, which–as we reported in this story–has put forth a controversial proposal to develop the Old Maui High School property on the other side of Paia in Hamakuapoko.
Parcel map courtesy County of Maui