A planned Target store in Kailua will draw about 10 percent to 15 percent more traffic into the business core of the town, the retailer said yesterday in pledging to make traffic improvements.
But most of the estimated 250 residents attending a Target-sponsored open house at Kailua Elementary School left unsatisfied and remain convinced that the big-box store’s arrival in 2012 will increase congestion and diminish the Windward town’s charm.
Eric Padget, a Target senior development manager, told residents the company would spend more than $1 million in traffic improvements for the area. The Target store will be built at the existing Don Quijote store site, between the post office and a Safeway store.
Traffic improvements would include a new traffic signal at Hahani Street, new left-turn lanes and crosswalks, and reducing the number of driveways to the shopping center from five to two, Padget said. Target also will do a traffic study after the store opens to see whether further improvements are needed, he said.
Diane Para, 41, who lives at the nearby Windward Harbour condominium complex, grilled Padget about why Target’s traffic study did not consider traffic conditions beyond its own boundaries.
Para pointed out that a new Whole Foods outlet is scheduled to open a few blocks away next year while the 200-unit Ironwoods condominium project also is being developed in the area.
"I’m only allowed to make traffic improvements to property I have permission and rights to," Padget replied.
"We don’t have the infrastructure to have that kind of traffic," said Jean Fernie, 65, of Enchanted Lake. "It just doesn’t belong here."
Para said Target, the other developers and the city need to work together on a traffic impact analysis for the greater Kailua community because customers are expected to come from as far as Hawaii Kai and Kaneohe.
Padget said the company has talked to property owner Kaneohe Ranch about a broader traffic study.
Target officials said the current Don Quijote store is 116,000 square feet while the new store, after expanding the existing building, would be 130,000 square feet.
Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2011, with the opening expected a year later, said Sarah Bakken, Target communications manager.
Several organized community groups opposed to the project collected signatures outside the cafeteria. Members of Keep It Kailua, No Target Kailua and Choose Kailua said they added 500 signatures to the 2,000 they already had.
Not everyone was opposed.
Olomana resident Joe Bussen, 37, said the site is zoned for commercial use and that Target wants to spruce up an aging area. "I don’t even like Target, I loved Holiday Mart and A&W. But times change," he said.
Keoni Webster, 29, of North Kainalu said he supports a Target because his wife likes to shop there, adding that the family drives to the Honolulu Target about three times a month.
"Traffic is going to get worse no matter what," he said. Webster, a construction worker, said the last thing he wants to see is the building sitting vacant like the nearby theaters have been for years.
Brook Gramann, who owns two businesses on Kailua Road, said she expects Target will be good for businesses by drawing people into the area.
Target won’t compete, as other merchants fear, because it will bring a different type of product, she said. "Target coming into Kailua is a good thing as long as they meet the parking problems."
The Kailua Chamber of Commerce has chosen to take no position on the issue. Chamber President Puna Nam said the 190-member group is split evenly among those who support and oppose a Target.
The Kailua Neighborhood Board voted Nov. 4 to oppose the project.
Opponents expressed concerns that Kailua is losing its small-town feel.
Sally McCully, 58, said she feels Kaneohe Ranch "took the easy way out" by attracting Target when it could have redeveloped the area with a mix of medium-sized businesses that better fit the area, she said.
Kalaheo Hillside resident Steve Spencer, 56, said he grew up in Kailua. During an impromptu rally started by Target opponents at the cafeteria stage, he said, "Part of living in Kailua is so we don’t have this crap." Spencer said he and his family plan drives to Honolulu if they need to shop for things they can’t find in Kailua.
Ruby Luzon, 78, said her biggest disappointment will be the loss of the Don Quijote, which she calls "Don Q."
The Keolu Hills resident said she meets friends there and that the store "caters to elderly people" by bringing in Asian food products and other hard-to-find items.
Target has attempted to bring in more local vendors and products at its other Hawaii stores, and Luzon said she might visit the new store if it carries some of the things she finds at Don Quijote.
"But if there’s too much traffic, I don’t think I’ll be going there at all," she said.