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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 12, 2010

Stores, high rises in Kam Drive-In plan

by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Robertson Properties Group envisions a retail complex and residential towers at the old Kam Drive-In location.

Advertiser library photo

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The owner of the former Kam Drive-In property next to Pearlridge Center in 'Aiea has floated development plans for the site that include three high-rise residential towers and a retail complex near an envisioned city rail station.

Robertson Properties Group, the Los Angeles-based real estate development arm of Consolidated Theatres, has owned the 14-acre parcel since 2007, and previously said it was contemplating commercial development there.

Recently, the developer has been sharing conceptual details with community leaders.

The plans are preliminary and a development timetable is uncertain, according to state Rep. Blake Oshiro, who has met with a Robertson representative and related the plans to area residents he represents.

A Robertson official could not be reached for more information or comment yesterday.

The company, Oshiro said, intends to make a public presentation in April.

From the rough details presented to Oshiro and others, Robertson's plans include 150,000 square feet of retail space, including a large grocery store and smaller shops. The retail complex would be divided among 10 buildings, but in total would be roughly the size of a Costco store.

The residential towers envisioned would rise 30 stories with an estimated 1,000 units in total. To rise that high, roughly 300 feet, Robertson will need a zoning change from the property's present height limit of 60 feet.

Robertson is banking on such a change being granted in conjunction with new city rules for transit-oriented development expected to provide extra building density for projects near train stations.

The project site is about a quarter mile from a planned station at the corner of Ka'ōnohi Street and Kamehameha Highway.

City Councilman Gary Okino, who represents the area, said Robertson's plan should fit nicely with the planned rail line.

"It's good for us because we want to put more people near the train station," he said. "Without the train station, we wouldn't allow that kind of density."

Okino said a zoning change also will give the city an opportunity to negotiate with Robertson to provide community benefits that could include affordable housing, road improvements or other things.

Still, there is concern among some area residents that such a high-density project will increase local traffic congestion. Oshiro said that's the main concern he's heard from his constituents. He said the weekend swap meet is enough to jam traffic on Moanalua Road. "It's just crazy," he said.

Vendors of the swap meet that has operated on the site for about 35 years expect that they will be displaced by the project if it's approved and moves forward.

Timing for development, according to Oshiro, likely would start with the retail component and be partly dependent on an economic recovery. The city's rail system, which has much momentum but still isn't a sure thing, is also expected to affect the timing and scope of Robertson's plans.

Okino said the rail line, if built as projected, could be running in the area around 2015.

Consolidated, which leased the project site from Kamehameha Schools, ceased showing movies at the outdoor theater in 1998. Robertson bought the land in 2007 in a deal that included paying Kamehameha Schools $23 million, according to property records, and giving the trust Consolidated's Varsity Twin Cinema site in Mō'ili'ili.

In Hawai'i, Robertson has developed the retail complex Center of Waikiki on Consolidated's former Waikiki III theater, and the recently completed Pearl City Gateway retail center in Mānana.