South Korean Capital on the Move in Honolulu

Dec 6, 2019

In just four years, a new private investment firm has acquired a dozen parcels of land along a short stretch of Kapiolani Boulevard.

The “JL” of JL Capital is Joon-Ho Lee of South Korea.

According to Forbes, the billionaire is the 32nd richest person in South Korea, who came by his wealth through the tech sector. He is chairman of the South Korean videogame company, NHN Corporation. Locally, JL Capital is head by Tim Lee, no relation, who had been working with Christine Camp’s Avalon Group. Lee left Avalon to form JL Ala Moana and then, just last year, JL Capital. The parting with Avalon was amicable, in fact, JL Capital is the majority owner of Avalon’s Sky Ala Moana project. 

In its short life so far, JL Capital has invested nearly $100 million in properties on the stretch of Kapiolani between Keeaumoku St. and the Hawaii Convention Center, making it the leading force for the revitalization of that section of the boulevard. Its plans include adding about 1,000 housing units. That would be nearly 20% of all the new housing envisioned for the area in the transit-oriented development plan of the city and county of Honolulu.

One of the firm’s recent purchases set a record for the neighborhood. JL Capital, as JL Ala Moana, closed on nearly an acre that includes the former KGMB property, now known as the Shops at Kapiolani, for $29 million, at $722 per square foot, a price previously unseen.

Eventually, this will be a mixed-use tower, but for now, the new owners are content to leave the current tenants in place. Tim Lee says the firm is focused exclusively on this Ala Moana TOD area, drawn to its mix of office, shopping and residential real estate.