Hawaii shopping center upgrade almost done
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
After more than two years of construction, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center's $115 million renovation project is nearing completion in the next few months, featuring a larger grove of trees, less concrete, and as of this week, a new statue.
"We should be completed with most of the common areas at the end of the month," said general manager Marleen Akau. She expects most of the stores to fill in by the end of March, followed by "a world-class state-of-the-art live performance showroom" and a few more restaurants as well as a food court.
Akau acknowledged that the project was first slated to take 18 months and cost $84 million, but she said some delays were prompted by the hidden issues that come from renovating a building more than 25 years old.
"We helped the tenants in any way we can," Akau said. "Le Sportsac had to move three times and Island Snow four times."
If you haven't visited Waikiki recently, the main difference you'll see from Kalakaua Avenue is the green of landscaping and increased open space that soften a complex that bore a strong resemblance to the institutional architecture of the 1980s.
A bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was dedicated yesterday as part of a celebration of the princess' 176th birthday in the historic Royal Grove.
"It is fitting that the statue is nestled in the grove's ethno-botanical gardens at Helumoa," said Dee Jay Mailer, CEO of Kamehameha Schools, "as this is where Ke Ali'i Pauahi spent her last days and wrote the final codicil to her will that provided for the establishment of Kamehameha Schools."
The statue was created by Kamehameha Schools graduate Sean Kekamakupa'a Ka'onohiokalani Lee Loy Browne and named, "Ka 'Ikena Ho'oulu a Pauahi," (The Inspired Vision of Pauahi). It depicts the princess seated on a bench reading to a little girl.
The grove provides a green space in the middle of the dense resort area. Akau said removal of the center's old glass elevators as part of the renovation helped to open up the area.
"It was more like a barrier keeping people out of the project," she said. "It's really open; a lot of the concrete disappeared."
The Royal Grove ended up adding more trees than had been in the area in years. There are now more than 210 trees, or about twice as many as before.
The work has won the support of The Outdoor Circle, which fielded complaints from nearby residents when the work prompted the removal of a number of adult palm trees.
Bob Loy, director of environmental programs for the Outdoor Circle, said the center planners and landowner Kamehameha Schools showed a commitment to preserving the trees and protecting the historic part of Waikiki known as Helumoa, a favored retreat of Hawaiian royalty.
"I think people are going to be real happy when they see the center," Loy said. "It is more inviting. It looks much better."
Loy noted that coconut palms were replaced and the landscaping enhanced from what was there before. "We're really glad about the saving of one old banyan tree," he added.
Loy said the organization is keeping an eye on a neighboring project at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
He said the organization is meeting with planners for that project but has expressed concern about a plan to remove coconut trees to build a croquet course.
Akau said she hopes residents realize that the center has restaurants and shops of interest to them. And more than 610 parking spaces, with rates of $2 for two hours or $4 for four hours.
"We are here not just for the visitors," Akau said.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com.
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