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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 6, 2001

Demand drives Kapolei building

 •  Map: Kapolei development project

By Scott Ishikawa
and Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writers

The recession that slowed commercial growth in Kapolei, O'ahu's "Second City," during the 1990s is ironically now spurring the demand for it.

The Marketplace at Kapolei, a $10 million shopping center with about 30 tenants, is scheduled to open alongside Kapolei Shopping Center next fall.

Artist's rendering • Campbell Estate

"Home prices dropped last decade and people started buying out here," Kapolei Neighborhood Board chairman George Yamamoto said. "Now that we have the population base, people are demanding those shops and libraries and other things."

More of the community's basic needs will be satisfied next fall when The Marketplace at Kapolei, a $10 million shopping center with about 30 tenants, is scheduled to open alongside Kapolei Shopping Center.

The 65,000-square-foot project, which officially breaks ground today, is more than half-leased, primarily with small, local ethnic restaurants and other food operations.

The site is one of the last major pieces of undeveloped land in Kapolei's first commercial phase along Farrington Highway and Kamokila Boulevard, where Kmart, Kapolei Entertainment Center, a water park, gas stations, banks and Kapolei Shopping Center are located.

It also adds momentum to development in the area, where eight major construction projects valued at more than $125 million are planned for next year, maintaining the momentum begun more than 10 years ago when the city was born.

"This is really going to finish the border of the city," said Donna Goth, director of Hawai'i properties for Campbell Estate. "The more that people see, the more the (second city) reality exists. That's very important from a development perspective."

About 150 short-term construction jobs will be created by the project, which when complete is expected to provide a few hundred permanent jobs. Developing the marketplace on land leased from Campbell Estate is a partnership of Phoenix-based HUCO Pacific Development Inc., Honolulu real estate firm Pacific Acquisitions Ltd. and Maui developer The Gresham Co. Inc.

To date the team has signed leases with tenants to fill more than half of the 30 spaces at the 65,000-square-foot project with 299 parking stalls. Those committed so far are primarily small ethnic restaurants such as Tokyo Noodle House, Leonard's Malasadas and Khularb Thai.

Blockbuster Video is the center's biggest committed tenant so far. Others include hair and nail-styling shops, a florist and a federal credit union. Center developers say they are trying to attract more businesses such as a copy center, book store and hardware store — all of which Kapolei does not have.

John Morioka, a Pacific Acquisitions partner and director, said the development team found a multicultural community wanting mostly more specialty restaurants.

"They didn't want another hamburger place. They didn't want another high-end restaurant," he said. "They wanted malasadas. They wanted manapua ... a Thai restaurant ... sushi ... a cultural mix."

Kapolei resident George Yamamoto said Kapolei's distance from Central O'ahu has prompted the residents' request for more eateries.

"Taking the kids to Pearl City or town to eat is still a drive," he said.

Another resident, Brent Buckley, said the demand for more restaurants also stems from the number of dual-income families.

"You're already tired from the hour commute coming back from town, so with both spouses working, families are looking for the convenience of eating out," he said.

Goth said a high level of population growth made a bigger community retail center a real necessity.

According to the 2000 Census, the Kapolei population grew from zero to a little more than 17,000 people over the past decade. According to Campbell Estate, surrounding communities on the 'Ewa plain from West Loch to Ko Olina bring the larger area's population to about 69,000 — a number it projects will grow to about 88,000 by 2010.

William Gresham, another partner in the marketplace development, said the project will connect with Kapolei Shopping Center and share a similar design.

Originally, the marketplace site was envisioned as a second phase to the 134,000-square-foot Kapolei Shopping Center, which opened nine years ago with Kapolei's first business, Safeway.

For some time, the existing center has been nearly 100 percent leased with mostly regional and national businesses such as Longs, McDonald's, Radio Shack, Payless ShoeSource and Baskin-Robbins.

Even so, Morioka said it has been a challenge convincing businesses that Kapolei has enough people to support a more dynamic and competitive business community.

Eddie Flores Jr., owner of the L&L Drive-Inn restaurant chain, said he believes it will be another 20 years until Kapolei achieves self-sufficiency, yet he was the first tenant to sign a lease at the marketplace.

"We expect a lot of local people to be in there," he said. "There's not a lot of other restaurants, and you have a growing population."

Resident Brent Buckley and his family wishes they could visit the neighborhood bookstore, clothing shop, florist or hardware store. But living out in Kapolei still has its drawbacks as a fledgling community trying to become the self-sustained second city of O'ahu.

"We have the anchor stores out here like K-mart and Safeway, along with the fast food outlets," said Buckley, a seven-year Kapolei resident. "But the community has been waiting for more specialty stores."

Added Goth: "Just a few years ago, West O'ahu residents had to drive all the way to Pearlridge just to see a movie. Today, area residents have movie theatres, stores, restaurants, medical facilities, and state and city services located within minutes of where they live."

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8065.