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Aloha Tower Marketplace up for sale

Andrew Gomes
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Fireworks illuminate the sky over Aloha Tower in celebration of the Fourth of July.
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Owner AREA Property Partners has not set a price for the waterfront property.

A New York-based investment firm that owns Aloha Tower Marketplace is looking to sell the waterfront retail complex fronting Honolulu Harbor, five years after pulling the property out of bankruptcy.

AREA Property Partners has retained local commercial real estate firm Colliers Monroe Friedlander to find a buyer for the 168,895-square-foot center, which is on state-owned land under a long-term lease.

No asking price has been set.

If successful, a sale would result in a fourth owner attempting to make the generally money-losing center a long-term financial success.

Mark Bratton, a Colliers vice president, said AREA Property is trying to attract a buyer interested in repositioning the struggling center possibly with new tenants or different uses including residential.

"It’s been the same kind of format — waterfront, visitor-oriented retail — for 16 years, and there’s definitely parts of the shopping center that have not been successful," he said. "It’s a great opportunity. We have a bunch of different ideas."

Bratton declined to get into specifics, though some contemplated new uses such as residential would require a change in zoning.

The restaurant-anchored center built around Honolulu’s iconic clock tower opened in 1994. It was built by local partnership Aloha Tower Associates at a cost of $95 million.

But financing dried up for plans by the company to develop adjacent state land with an office tower, two condominium towers, a hotel and underground parking. The lack of sufficient parking and a critical mass of activity has hamstrung the viability of the marketplace.

Aloha Tower Associates was forced into bankruptcy in 1997. A new set of investors led by Honolulu firm Trinity Investment Trust LLC acquired the center in 1998 for an undisclosed price but also ran into financial trouble.

The Trinity group doing business as Aloha Tower LP filed for bankruptcy in 2002 after repeated annual losses averaging more than $1 million.

AREA Property, which was a minority partner in Aloha Tower LP and then known as Apollo Real Estate Advisors, took sole ownership of the marketplace in 2005 in return for partially satisfying debts of unsecured creditors.

Since then the economy has not been kind to visitor-oriented shopping centers, and the lack of sufficient parking also has continued to be a nagging problem for Aloha Tower Marketplace.

Occupancy declined from about 90 percent five years ago to 74 percent presently. About 55 tenants operate at the center, including Gordon Biersch and Hooters restaurants.

Kim Scoggins, another agent with Colliers, believes the property’s unique location should make the center attractive to the right buyer. "It’s on the harbor in Honolulu and will not be duplicated for some time," he said. "It has tremendous upside potential."


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