The last few times I’ve driven by the Shops at Wailea, I couldn’t help but notice that the long red and white arms of their new paid parking gates were pointed skyward, allowing (like the old days) just anyone to drive on in and park for no charge. At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but after the third time, I called the Shops to find out what was wrong.
“I think they’re in the process of fixing something at the gate, but I don’t know,” the Shops’ spokesperson (who requested anonymity for some reason) told me on Aug. 12. Though she promised to get back to me with a specific answer, I’ve yet to hear from her.
I can guess why: county officials say those fancy new parking gates–installed early this summer over serious objections from both merchants and customers–had a couple problems, including the fact that they don’t allow proper access to fire and emergency vehicles.
“There seemed to be two issues,” county Communications Director Rod Antone said in an email, part of which was a forwarded message from the county Department of Fire and Public Safety (DFPS). “First, the size of the opening–too narrow–into the parking area that the gate serves and second, how to allow FIRE access through the gate.”
Antone said that Shops management has already addressed the first problem. Indeed, there’s evidence of recent landscaping and lane-widening work around the entrance gate into the Shops. As for the second, not so much.
“The access issue wasn’t discovered until later when an emergency response to the area was needed,” stated the DFPS portion of the email. “Our office [the DFPS] reached out to the management and informed them that access was needed/required. They were advised to keep the gate up/open or risk having it forcibly opened if FIRE needed access to the area. The gate is probably open because management is still working out a way to give FIRE access through the gate.”
“Had the Shops at Wailea not had an emergency for fire to respond to,” Antone added, “they would not have realized they had this issue.”
Also, Pacific Business News just reported that the Chicago investment management firm Heitman Capital Management LLC has purchased the Shops at Wailea for $342 million.