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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Downtown Honolulu high-rise opens

Photo gallery: Capitol Place

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Capitol Place at Alakea and Beretania streets will have a Pflueger Honda new- and used-car dealership, right, on its ground floor.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Number of stories of tower on former Block J owned by the city

$10.5 million

Amount Pflueger paid for the land at auction in 2004


Number of units; 95 percent have been sold


Average price of units


Municipal-rate parking spaces open today

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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More than a decade since the city proposed private redevelopment of a Downtown Honolulu municipal parking lot to raise money and energize a sagging local economy, the final version of that vision has been delivered.

Capitol Place, the luxury residential high-rise on the former 120-stall public parking lot known as Block J, is putting the finishing touches on, and welcoming new residents to, the 39-story tower.

Today, 143 municipal-rate parking spaces open in the building as part of the deal with the city, and a Pflueger Honda new- and used-car dealership is slated to open May 1.

Six to eight residents have been moving in per day since the building's soft opening earlier this month, and 374 of 394, or 95 percent, of the units have been sold for an average price close to $725,000.

The project's completion wraps up a long and arduous city plan to replace Block J with a higher use, and will inject Downtown's mauka edge with an influx of residents such as Terry Tucker, a housewife who moved from the Marco Polo building in McCully with her husband because he works across the street from Capitol Place.

"It's more convenient," Tucker said, noting that her view overlooking the Ala Wai Canal was better at Marco Polo.

For Marian Jewell, a 46-year-old working mother, moving into Capitol Place yesterday after reserving a unit at a May 2005 sales event felt like a miracle. "I waited three long years for this," she said.

Jewell previously had lost a home in foreclosure following a divorce, and had been living with her brother in Foster Village while Capitol Place was being built. In the past year, she landed a job as an insurance company account executive that enabled her to finance a mortgage, complete her purchase and move in with her 9-year-old daughter.

"It's been an exciting journey," Jewell said. "(The building is) even better than I thought. We're real excited to be here."

Jewell was moving furniture into her one-bedroom unit yesterday after living there for about a week with not much more than a mattress. "It's like half camping and half hotel," she said.


The hotel atmosphere of Capitol Place exists in a mix of services and amenities that includes bell service, a gym staffed by personal trainers, housekeeping and newspaper delivery.

The building also has a mini dog park, children's play apparatus, a pool and giant jacuzzi, a 20-seat theater, two music rooms, six barbecue cabanas and a fleet of shopping carts for walking to nearby markets.

Twenty units remain for sale at prices from $700,000 to $1 million, with most in the $900,000s. Three years ago, initial prices ranged from about $350,000 to $1.2 million. Monthly maintenance fees range from $355 to $840.

Kathryn Inouye, chief operating officer of Kobayashi Group that co-developed Capitol Place, said sales results exceeded the developer's expectations, especially because there was concern that the weakened real estate market and tightened mortgage market would cause buyers to drop out.

"If we were 90 percent sold, we'd be happy," Inouye said. "So in this market, we're very happy where we are."

By comparison, about six months ago the 36-story tower 909 Kapiolani in Kaka'ako opened with 76 percent of its units sold about 173 of 227 at prices from $263,000 to $1.2 million.

Last month another Kaka'ako condo tower, Keola La'i on South Street, opened with about 330 of 352 units, or 94 percent, sold or in escrow for an average price of $684,000.

About two years ago, the first of several luxury high-rises in Kaka'ako, Hokua at 1288 Ala Moana, was sold out upon completion and was followed by other sellouts or near sellouts Ko'olani at 1189 Waimanu St. and Moana Pacific at 1288 Kapi'olani Blvd.

During the state's last real estate market contraction, the 425-unit luxury Hawaiki Tower in Kaka'ako was just 43 percent sold by the time of completion in 1999.


Capitol Place was developed by PMK Development, a partnership among local developers The MacNaughton Group, Kobayashi Group and automobile dealer Pflueger Group.

MacNaughton and Kobayashi, which developed Hokua, teamed up with Pflueger after Pflueger bought the land from the city at public bid in 2004 for $10.5 million.

The 2.4-acre site bordered by Bishop, Beretania, Queen Emma and Kukui streets for more than 20 years had been targeted for improvement projects that included a bus depot, international trade center, medical building and residential towers to house University of Hawai'i faculty and low-income renters.

In 1995, Mayor Jeremy Harris proposed fast-tracking private development of Block J and other idle city parcels to help jump-start the then-flagging Hawai'i economy.

The city committed the property in 1998 to a Mainland developer proposing twin affordable rental towers, retail space and about 2,000 parking stalls, including 1,200 for public use.

But after more than two years of developer delays and project modifications, the City Council called off the deal in late 2000, which led to new bids and the development of Capitol Place.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.