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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 1, 2006

Puck's Alley dorm plan off for now

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

There is no redevelopment plan for Puck's Alley, according to Kamehameha Schools, but the immediate goal is to find an occupant for vacant ground-floor space and to provide improvements to the complex at University Avenue and South King Street.

ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | Aug. 2005

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A plan to add dorm rooms on top of Puck's Alley has been put off, but the Mo'ili'ili retail plaza still could see some renovation under new ownership.

Kamehameha Schools, which owns the land under the 50,000-square-foot complex, yesterday bought back its lease on the property from local developer Peter Savio for an undisclosed price.

Savio had purchased the lease from businesses affiliated with James K.Y. Wong and sold it to Kamehameha Schools yesterday in a simultaneous transaction. Savio said he passed the lease to the estate for no additional consideration after Kamehameha Schools expressed interest in acquiring whole ownership of the property.

The sale comes about a year after Wong agreed to sell the lease to Savio, who planned to fix up and add several hundred dorm rooms to the complex at UniveKamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said the estate doesn't have any redevelopment plan for Puck's Alley.

"Our immediate goal is to get in there to fill (any) vacant spaces that are there, and provide any upgrades or renovations to the center to bring it up to (higher) standards," he said.

The center is nearly filled, with one empty ground-floor space formerly occupied by Jelly's.

The purchase could accelerate broader long-term redevelopment opportunities for Hawai'i's largest private landowner, which owns neighboring land leased to others that eventually will return to estate control.

Kamehameha Schools owns a vacant parcel just mauka of Puck's Alley used for parking, but Paulsen said the estate did not buy out the lease for that site.

The estate also owns land under a neighboring apartment complex and land under several buildings along Beretania Street 'ewa of Puck's Alley.

Wong developed Puck's Alley in 1973 as a youth-oriented retail center with about 40 tenants on two stories.

The complex occupies several different parcels with leases that expire at different times over the next 13 to 25 years.

Wong's son, Darryl, said Kamehameha Schools struck a mutually agreeable deal to take back control of the property.

"They control most of the area already," Darryl Wong said. "It makes more sense."

Darryl Wong, who is also president of the Old Town Mo'ili'ili Business Association, said the estate is in a better position to advance a community vision to renew the area below the University of Hawai'i-Manoa campus and give it more of a college-town atmosphere.

Savio still hopes to be involved if Kamehameha Schools wants to add dorms to Puck's Alley in the future.

Savio said he obtained a 10-year option to develop dorms atop the retail complex if the estate decides to pursue the idea.

Savio's plan involved a four-story addition with about 125 rooms on Puck's Alley, and another roughly 250 rooms rising six stories on the parking lot behind the center.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.