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Wednesday, October 22, 2014         

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Retail project revived

Safeway takes over development of a stalled Ewa Beach center, with work to start in the fall

By Andrew Gomes

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A stalled plan to build a new retail center in Ewa Beach called Laulani Village is moving forward after being taken over by its largest committed tenant, Safeway.

An affiliate of the California-based grocery store chain, Property Development Centers, announced Monday that it has bought the project on 20 acres at the corner of Fort Weaver Road and Keaunui Street across from Hawaii Prince Golf Club.

No price was disclosed for the acquisition, though the total development cost of the project is estimated at roughly $85 million.

Construction is projected to start in the fall, setting up an expected opening of a 60,000-square-foot Safeway store anchoring the 210,000-square-foot center in late 2012.

Safeway said its new store will employ 150 people, while other stores at Laulani Village could create up to 350 additional jobs.

Safeway's decision to buy the land and develop the center, which will be more than twice as big as other retail centers in the community, comes after delays encountered by two previous developers.

"Safeway has been anxious to be in the Ewa market for many, many years — so much so that when this opportunity came up they bought the entire property," said Wendell Brooks III, a CB Richard Ellis broker who has been the leasing agent for Laulani Village for several years.

Laulani Village was initially announced in 2005 by Bristol Group, a San Francisco-based development firm, and Hawaiian Asset Management and Investments Corp., a firm led by California-based real estate investor Art Howard.

The initial developers viewed the site adjacent to an expanding Gentry Homes subdivision as well suited for a growing residential area served by two much smaller retail centers.

Major shopping complexes in the area include the Foodland-anchored Ewa Town Center, which is about 80,000 square feet and was built in 1999, and the similar-size Ewa Beach Shopping Center, which was built in the 1960s and anchored by Star Markets until that store closed a couple years ago.

Safeway signed on early to anchor Laulani Village, but development was delayed despite considerable tenant interest and ongoing housing development.

Bristol and Hamico anticipated completing the center in 2008, but construction never began and the developers unsuccessfully tried to sell the site to Target. In mid-2007, Bristol and Hamico sold the property to a partnership led by Michigan-based retail developer Westwood Development Group LLC.

Westwood said in 2008 it had leased almost half of the center to tenants including Safeway, IHOP, Panda Express, Supercuts, Cold Stone Creamery, Pet's Discount, Pearl's Korean BBQ, Taco Del Mar and Price Busters. The new developer said it expected Laulani Village would open in 2009. Construction, however, did not proceed.

Brooks said previous leases are no longer in effect, though some previously committed tenants remain interested and are working to execute new leases. Nearly 70 percent of space is tentatively leased in the redesigned project, he said.

Brooks said it was premature to disclose present prospective tenants. Other previously identified tentative tenants have included Walgreens, Petco and City Mill.

Safeway has used a similar model of developing new stores in conjunction with adjacent retail space for restaurants and other stores in recent years. Similar projects include a complex in Kapahulu that opened three years ago, one under construction at the corner of Beretania and Piikoi streets, and two slated for construction next year in Lihue and Hilo.






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