SBA Low Interest Loans Offered to Marco Polo Condominium Residents

Sep 14, 2017

Marco Polo condominium association of apartment owners board president, Lorena Schmidt, address the media. Standing behind her, L-R, deputy director for emergency management department, Hiro Toya; HFD captain David Jenkins, SBA public information officer, Cynthia Cowell and Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Residents of the Marco Polo condominium on Kapi’olani Boulevard are now eligible for low-interest loans following a devastating fire two months ago. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

The 7-alarm fire at the Marco Polo condominium on July 14th killed 3 people, caused an estimated 100 million dollars in damage and destroyed or ruined more than 200 units.  A state and county disaster declaration last week now enable Marco Polo residents to apply for low interest federal loans from the Small Business Administration.  Cynthia Cowell is the agency’s public information officer.

“For homeowners we can lend up to $200-thousand to cover uninsured losses and for renters and homeowners we can lend up to $40-thousand for personal property that may have been lost in the fire.”

Loan interest rates for owners could be as low as 1.75 percent.  Three percent for businesses or the homeowners association.  The deadline to apply is November 13th.    Marco Polo Association of Apartment Owners Board President, Lorena Schmidt, says residents are pulling together.

“We are looking forward to the possibility of installing a sprinkler system here.  It will depend on the state and our government to help us get through this but we are very much interested in installing a sprinkler system here at the Marco Polo.”

Marco Polo fire, July 14.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Meanwhile, the cause of the fire is contained in a formal report being reviewed by the Honolulu Fire Department.  Captain David Jenkins is HFD’s public information officer.

“The fire investigators have concluded their investigation and have drafted their initial fire investigation report.  That report is now going through review.  We do anticipate having that done in weeks without committing to a timeline and once that’s done, we will be putting out information on what was learned and what can be done to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”

The 36-story Marco Polo was built in 1971, four years before the installation of fire sprinklers became mandatory for high rise buildings over 75-feet in height.  Mayor Kirk Caldwell proposed a bill to retrofit more than 360 high-rises in Honolulu without fire sprinkler systems.  But he says, the implementation will not be immediate.

“We are looking at a program that would happen in 10-to-20 years.  Impact would be reduced.  Now the other thing is we’d be looking to assist those who would qualify for loans at the lower end of the economic spectrum.  But there are condominiums in this town right now, some of the – what I think – most elegant, beautiful condos that were built before 1974 that aren’t retrofitted that the could afford to pay for.  But absolutely, we don’t want to go the other way on affordable housing.  We’re working hard to try to get more affordable  housing built on this island.”

For more information on small business administration loans go to disasterloan.sba.gov.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.