Church denies 'pushing businesses out'
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer
By Suzanne Roig
NIU VALLEY — Tenants at the Niu Valley Shopping Center say it has turned into more of a religious campus than a place to shop since the center was purchased by the King's Cathedral almost two years ago.
Church officials, however, say that they have signed new deals for additional tenants and that they are working to make the center a positive economic force in the community.
Tenants say they are concerned because The Swiss Haus has shuttered its doors and Kentucky Fried Chicken is looking to move.
KFC, which has been a tenant for more than 10 years, is moving because the center is not viable without an anchor tenant, said Steve Johnson, general manager Kazi Foods Corp. of Hawai'i, which owns KFC and Burger King in Hawai'i. The center was anchored by Times Supermarket until 2001, when the store closed.
Another concern is voiced by the owner of Environmental Biotech, who said she was told her business, 12 years in the same location, wasn't a suitable tenant and was supposed to have vacated by Dec. 31. Environmental Biotech uses bacteria to clean drain lines for food-service facilities and needs a space that has access to water, said Jackie Anderson, company owner.
"We've been looking for a place to go, but there's a great shortage of space," Anderson said. "I don't blame the other businesses for leaving. There's a big parking issue."
Tenants who have recently renegotiated their leases say they were told that the number of parking stalls was limited and employees would have to park on the street, especially during the days when the church has activities — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, Anderson said
King's Cathedral pastor Brian Reynolds said the church is not telling tenants they must park on the street, but parking is going to be restricted on the basis of a business' square footage. So some businesses are going to be assigned more space than others, he said.
"The reality is we all have to work together to make it work," Reynolds said. "We're going to be congenial with everyone. We're not telling people to park on the street."
The church has just signed agreements with two new businesses that will open soon. Reynolds declined to name them, but said one is a food store that sells meals-to-go and the other is a 9-to-5 operation.
"It's a transition period now," Reynolds said. "We're a constantly changing organism that is attempting to be a blessing to the community. The church is not pushing businesses out."
Jeannine Johnson, a Niu Valley resident, said the community of 700 homes of mostly elderly residents wants a retail establishment like what all the neighboring communities have. There is a 7-Eleven slated to go up on the former Unocal site on East Halema'uma'u Street, though construction has yet to begin.
"We're losing the convenience. Even though the church promised us, it is pushing our businesses out the door," Johnson said.
Times and Unocal closed before the church purchased the site. Domino's has been closed for more than a year. Remaining tenants include restaurants, a swimming school and a handful of service businesses including Curves, a hair salon, doctor offices and BJ Genz Plumbing.
The church initially leased the former Niu Times location in August 2003 and exercised an option to purchase the entire 5-acre center from the Hawai'i Electricians Pension Trust Fund in August 2004 for about $14 million. King's Cathedral, formerly known as the First Assembly of God Kahului, envisions its Niu location as its O'ahu hub.
Reach Suzanne Roig at email@example.com.