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Waikiki attraction nears a construction milestone

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    The large iconic banyan tree can be seen in the background. At top is a rendering of the project.
    A rendering of the project, which will be anchored by an 80,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue store.
    Ironworker Larry Fenton tightened bolts Tuesday on the construction site of the International Market Place in Waikiki.
    This is the construction site of the International Market Place in Waikiki. The large banyan tree can barely be seen as the building seems to surround it.

The completion this month of steel framing for the International Market Place puts the redevelopment on track to reopen in August, creating jobs for an anticipated 2,500 employees and contract workers.

International Market Place

>> Opening: 10 a.m. Aug. 25
>> Jobs: 1,000 construction, 2,500 permanent
>> Parking: 700 spaces in a six-level structure
>> Size: Three levels; 360,000 square feet; 80,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue anchor
>> Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. 365 days a year

The iconic Waikiki institution is slated to reopen Aug. 25 at 10 a.m., according to General Manager Michael Fenley, who gave the first sneak peek of the retail and entertainment complex Tuesday during a Pacific Asia Travel Association luncheon at the Hawaii Prince Hotel.

“The revitalized International Market Place will be a shopping, dining and entertainment center that perfectly complements the Waikiki retail landscape,” said Fenley. “It has a fantastic location with a rich legacy, and I’m looking forward to its rebirth as a premier destination for residents and visitors from around the world. Later this month we’ll hold a topping-off ceremony to celebrate that the framework of the entire shopping center is complete.”

Developed by Taubman and CoastWood in conjunction with Queen Emma Land Co., the 360,000-square-­foot complex is slated to open with approximately 75 retail tenants. Tenant sites mostly range from 450 to 5,000 square feet; however, an 80,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue will anchor the complex. The three-story complex also will feature seven to 10 restaurants, with enclosed and open-air locations ranging from 1,000 square feet and up. Taubman also is in negotiations with an operator to provide a casual eatery on the ground floor or second level with multiple food stations.

The $350 million retail complex replaces the circa-1957 International Market Place, which for decades was home to countless small businesses that found their niche selling volcano-shaped candles, plastic hula skirts, inexpensive aloha wear and the like. Founded by Don Beach (also known as Ernest Gantt and Don the Beachcomber) and partners, the center was once frequented by celebrities such as Don Ho and Duke Kahanamoku. In its heyday, tourists flocked to Beach’s treehouse and the market’s famous banyan tree, which were at the epicenter of Waikiki’s largest food and retail complex.

Fenley said the new development preserves the market’s famous banyan tree, three monkeypod trees and the original International Market Place sign, which will be displayed on the third-floor Grand Lanai, which will have retractable roofs so patrons can enjoy indoor and outdoor dining.

The design of the three-story center also brings its own iconic architectural twists to Waikiki. On the Kalakaua Avenue side, Fenley said, the market will feature a nearly 79-foot fire tower with 23 gas-lit torches. This feature will extend 20 feet above the center’s third level.

“I expect the fire tower will be the backdrop for a huge number of selfies,” Fenley said.

The center’s Mauka Court will feature a dramatic 31-foot-tall rain curtain complete with a rainbow light feature. The market’s Queen’s Court will be filled with plants used by Native Hawaiian doctors and a pond featuring pink water lilies, a favorite of Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV, who owned the land under the center and whose efforts led to the establishment of the the Queen’s Hospital, Hono­lulu’s first medical center. Viliami Toluta’u has been commissioned to sculpt the royal family, and there will be an area for hula, entertainment and cultural demonstrations.

“I want to thank you for making culture a focal point of the center,” said Pohai Ryan, executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. ”The queen would be proud.”

Kim Duffet has been commissioned to create a bronze sculpture of Don Ho for the center’s Banyan Court, which will also feature a pedestrian bridge that transverses through the banyan tree and is reminiscent of Beach’s treehouse. Beach’s nephew Paul Gantt said he spent much of his youth in that treehouse and its surrounding grounds. He’s hopeful the redesign will return what had become a termite-ridden eyesore to better days.

“When I last saw the marketplace in 1989, it was full of garbage and carts and people selling the old nickel-and-dime stuff. It had completely lost the flavor of the old International Market Place, which when it opened was filled with culture and aesthetics and put Hawaii on the map,” Gantt said. “I hope they restore it back to something that gives a good face to Hawaii.”

Although the market went into a decline after its last building went up in 1970, the trust encountered difficulties executing an overhaul. Revitalization did not get underway until 2010 when Taubman Centers and Queen Emma Land Co. signed a development agreement. Demolition of the market, the neighboring Miramar at Waikiki hotel and the Waikiki Town Center began in early 2014. Jobs were lost at the Waikiki Town Center, which employed about 570 people, and the original International Market Place, which was home to about 130 businesses.

But Fenley said the new development already has created about 1,000 construction jobs and will create thousands more job opportunities upon opening. While Taubman transferred Fenley to Hawaii, he said the company expects to fill the rest of its workforce with local residents. Taubman recently hired David Mark, who has more than 15 years of marketing experience on Oahu, to serve as its marketing and sponsorship director.

“We are in discussions to hire a facilities director, and we hope that will be finalized soon,” Fenley said. “We expect to hire the rest of our support staff by early next year. We are negotiating with vendors to provide services such as cleaning, landscaping, security and parking. We also expect to have a tenant-based job fair in late spring or early summer.”

Fenley said market leasing is going well but that there are still opportunities. Taubman welcomes local applicants, including former market tenants, he said.

“While the atmosphere and structure has changed at the marketplace, we are willing to talk with any merchant or restaurateur that feels it would be an appropriate environment for them,” Fenley said.

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