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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 28, 2008

More luxury autos coming to Kapi'olani

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

New condominium lofts are replacing the old NCR Building at Kapi'olani and Cooke. Luxury car brands will be offered from ground-floor commercial space through JN Group.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus and Maserati will be joining other luxury car brands on a stretch of Kapi'olani Boulevard that in recent years has evolved into a neighborhood of high-end automobile dealerships.

Local auto retailer JN Group has agreed to buy ground-floor commercial space for the exotic car business in a mid-rise luxury condominium under construction at 720 Kapi'olani Blvd. on the site of the former NCR Building in Kaka'ako.

The planned showroom will be amid dealerships selling Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and BMW brands in a corridor of Kapi'olani between Ward Avenue and South Street.

As integrated with the planned 35-unit condo above called The Vanguard Lofts, the mixed-use complex will help establish more of an urban chic element in the former industrial area many now describe as Honolulu's luxury auto row.

"We are very excited to have an anchor of JN Group's quality and caliber as it is not only a great complement to The Vanguard Lofts, but it also fits well in Kaka'ako and along the Kapi'olani corridor," said Chris Deuchar, president of U.S. Pacific Development, which is developing the condo project.

Deuchar and JN Group didn't disclose a purchase price for the commercial site, which includes space in the building and a triangle-shaped piece of adjacent land totaling about 20,000 square feet.

The auto showroom is expected to open in October. Condo sales are scheduled to begin in May after a model unit is completed, with condo construction completed between January and March 2009.

Joe Nicolai, JN Group president, has long envisioned an exotic car dealership in the area. He previously planned to develop an office high-rise ringed by a galleria of international vehicle showrooms, ethnic restaurants and lodging on 2.4 acres he bought at the 'ewa-mauka corner of Ward and Kapi'olani in 2000.

"When we saw what U.S. Pacific Development had planned with its Vanguard Lofts, it made perfect sense to us to partner with them on our first stand-alone luxury car showroom," he said.

JN Group presently sells its collection of exotic car brands out of a dealership at 1069 S. Beretania St. shared with Audi where Nicolai said space is too tight.

Nicolai said his high-rise plan once envisioned to feature a World Trade Center franchise will more likely be a residential condo with five lower floors dedicated to commercial use. He said a World Trade Center franchise is still possible, though U.S. restrictions granting foreign visas still cast doubt on the viability of an office tower for international business.

Nicolai said the high-rise project is moving forward with the idea to incorporate a multiple-brand vehicle dealership, though there's no definite development timetable. In Honolulu, JN Group also represents Chevrolet, Mazda, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Buell and Vespa.

The JN Group exotic car showroom and Vanguard Lofts will be the second new-car dealership developed as part of a residential condo in Honolulu. Nearly complete is the Downtown Honolulu condo tower Capitol Place, which is scheduled for completion in April and will feature a Pflueger dealership.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.