Question: What ever happened to plans to renovate the old Fisherman’s Wharf in Kakaako and open a Pizza Bob’s restaurant there?
Answer: The state is reassessing plans for the building and surrounding area after the initial winning bidder, Advanced Restaurant Management Ltd., pulled out in October.
The restaurant has been vacant since Fisherman’s Wharf closed on Nov. 1, 2009.
In March the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency that oversees development in Kakaako, awarded a contract to renovate and manage the building to Advanced Restaurant Management, owned by Bob Lee, owner of Pizza Bob’s in Haleiwa.
Advanced Restaurant put down a deposit and began work, but at the end of the six-month, rent-free period on Oct. 19, the company surrendered the lease, HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching said.
"Their investment was not insignificant," he said. "There was a lot of due diligence. … They put in both effort and heart. … They clearly had a passion for the project and were very reluctant to have to surrender the lease."
Advanced Restaurant discovered that upgrades to meet government health and safety requirements drove up costs to significantly more than the $1 million it anticipated, Ching said. Needed improvements include upgrading the building’s 60-plus-year-old plumbing, installing grease traps and installing an elevator.
Bob Miller, director of operations for Advanced Restaurant Management, said the company was working on a way to restructure the deal. The company wanted a lease term of longer than 15 years, and balked at a clause that gave the state the option to terminate the lease with one year’s notice should redevelopment plans come up.
"Everything’s up in the air," Miller said. "I don’t know what’s going to happen next."
HCDA is looking into restructuring the lease by allowing a mixed-use development instead of the restaurant alone, which would allow for a longer lease, Ching said.
The company is also hoping the state could pay for some of the improvements, and as landlord it may be able to do so, Ching said.
A conceptual master plan for the entire area (makai of Ala Moana Boulevard from Ala Moana Beach Park to Forrest Avenue) should be completed in February. After the plan is ratified, HCDA would be free to entertain development proposals from developers, Ching said. He added that Advanced Restaurant would receive no special treatment.
This update was written by Leila Fujimori. Write to "Whatever Happened to …," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.