POSTED: 30 DECEMBER 2007 - 10:00pm HST

Drawn to an Island Life,
and Seeing the Cost in Every Price Tag

image above: Dick Holtzman, President of Kukuiula Development Company in Poipu and wife Sheila

by Perry Garfinkul on 30 December 2007 in The New York Times
[Editor's Note: This is only a portion of the published article]

Four years ago, Dick Holtzman also made an emotional choice when he moved with his wife, Sheila, and youngest child from Scottsdale, Arizona, to the island of Kauai (population 60,000) in Hawaii.

“Scottsdale was turning into L.A.,” said Mr. Holtzman, 53, now president of the Kukui’ula Development Company, a thousand-acre luxury resort and residential complex to open near Poipu Beach on Kauai in 2009. “Personally, I felt like I was stagnating.”

More than the job opportunity, however, was the pull of the islands. Though he was born on the mainland, he grew up on Oahu.

“I’ve taken an initial hit financially and my wife went into sticker shock the first year at the price of milk, but our bottom line is balanced by how much we love living here,” he said. “Even bad days are tolerable living in paradise.”

More people are moving to what demographers call “amenity areas”: nonmetropolitan regions with large percentages of seasonal housing, high expenditures for recreational activities and hotels, and a significant concentration of natural amenities like shoreline. Many islands fit that definition.

“Demographers often say people vote with their feet by moving,” said Kenneth M. Johnson, who is researching trends and conditions in small-town America as senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. “In that case, it certainly appears that one of the places they’re voting for is islands.”

On Martha’s Vineyard alone, the year-round population has risen to 15,500 from 6,000 in 1970. That growth rate is seven times that of Massachusetts over all and three times that of the rest of the country, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. In the summer, the Vineyard’s population can swell to an estimated 120,000.

Living on an island has become a drastic form of cocooning.

“It’s not just the romantic fantasy of what islands represent in literature and mythology or people’s own vacation memories,” said Joshua Calder, director of the global lifestyles project for Social Technologies, a research firm based in Washington, and an island buff with his own Web site, “It’s also the fact that bodies of water separate them from everything they want to escape on the mainland — development, traffic, stressed-out work lives, anonymity in urban and suburban communities, bad relationships. Once on the ferry, they leave all that behind.”

And now, thanks to the Internet, they can have their isolation and stay connected to the world as much, or as little, as they want.

see also:
Island Breath: Kukuiula's Broken Promises 4/18/04