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King Kalakaua Plaza hotel gets support

  • COURTESY PBR HAWAII

    King Kalakaua Plaza. The hotel will include a fourth-floor pool deck and its design will reflect the site’s history.

Plans to convert the King Kalakaua Plaza retail site into a seven-story, 230-room hotel tower received strong support from the Waikiki Neighborhood Board tonight.

An unsuccessful four-story retail building, which is owned by California-based Robertson Properties Group, currently sits on the redevelopment site fronting Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues between Olohana and Kalaimoku streets. The structure includes two levels of basement parking with more than 200 stalls.

New renovation plans will remove the building’s existing roof and add three new floors increasing the total building height from 65 feet to 100 feet, Tom Schnell, principal PBR Hawaii, the planning and landscape architecture company hired by Robertson Properties Group, told the board during its monthly meeting.

“It’s actually an adaptive reuse of the existing building, which is much more environmentally friendly. It’s a wide building, so we can get to 230 rooms without going as high as what is allowed,” Schnell said.

The height limit in the Waikiki Resort Mixed-use Precinct is 300 feet, but buildings up to 350 feet are allowed if approved by the Honolulu City Council, he said.

The hotel will include a fourth-floor pool deck and its design will reflect the site’s history, which Schnell said included a vast reserve of royal fish ponds. The mid-priced hotel will be aimed at attracting extended stay travelers, Schnell said.

Waikiki Neighborhood Board Member Jo-Ann Adams said she favored seeing the building turned into something more viable.

“I have no idea why the tourists could not cross the street, but they could not cross the street and use (the building),” Adams said. “Extended stay is something new in the portfolio for Waikiki.”

Built in 1998 for nearly $45 million , the King Kalakaua Plaza was formerly home to Nike Town, Banana Republic, and The All Star Café, a sports restaurant and bar. That unsuccessful development sat on a 1.05 acre, two-parcel site that once housed the Kuhio Theaters.

“It wasn’t a great location for them. It was a challenge to attract retail tenants to that end of Kalakaua and the building remained vacant for many years,”

The project is undergoing an environmental assessment, which is expected to be published in late December. A public comment period is expected to run until late January, he said.

Some Waikiki residents questioned whether the project would strain the dense neighborhood’s infrastructure. However, others applauded when Waikiki Neighborhood Board Vice Chairman Louis Erteschik offered preliminary support for the project.

“They aren’t trying to bust the zoning code or build another monstrosity. What you’ve got here they can build to 300 feet and they are only going to build to 100 feet. That’s a real gift,” Erteschik said. “They do comply with every facet of the law and we should appreciate and reward a developer or project manager that actually doesn’t want to have a high impact building.”

Waikiki Neighborhood Board Member Mark Smith concurred.

“I think the neighborhood is getting a real bargain, they could go a lot higher,” Smith said.

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