Goodbye to Waikiki's International Market Place. Hello, upscale mall.

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We continue to get inquiries about the fate of Waikiki’s International Market Place. For instance, reader Bob Brethour wrote:

The last I heard the International Market Place was going to disappear, and then there was some doubt. Could you please provide an update?

From Pat Pattison in Australia, we got a somewhat plaintive email:

My friend who lives in Portland told me that the International Market Place has closed down. Is this true???

The Market Place still stands. But its days are numbered.

Last year, we reported that the landowner—Queen Emma Land Co.—was taking proposals for developing the Market Place’s 6.48 acres in the heart of Waikiki. They expected to be done in several months.

It took longer, but last week Queen Emma Land signed an agreement with Taubman Centers.  Taubman is a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., company that develops, owns and operates high-end malls across the country. For instance, they own Beverly Center in Los Angeles, the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey and Fair Oaks Mall in Virginia.

Taubman is not saying much about the agreement except it “will evaluate the market feasibility of developing the current International Market Place, as well as conduct more in-depth due diligence into physical and regulatory requirements as next steps before moving forward.”

OK. What does that mean?

A major Hawai‘i project like redeveloping the Market Place will require jumping a fair number of regulatory hurdles—public input, environmental impact statements, approval from the Waikiki Special Design District and so forth. So Taubman's commitment is tentative.

Waikiki_International_Market_Place_Update_05282010“This is a step, perhaps not a final step, toward redeveloping the Market Place,” says  Queen Emma Land’s Les Goya. “We’re still in a fluid period, but this agreement with Taubman finally moves us forward toward getting it done.”

Don’t expect the Market Place to disappear overnight. Hawaii projects of this magnitude move forward at glacial speed.

However, Taubman already has a financing partner, San Francisco-based real estate investment firm CoastWood Capital Group.

Should all go well, Taubman will take a long-term ground lease on the property and proceed with redevelopment. Says Taubman vice-president, Stephen Kieras, “This popular area will be revitalized with destination retail and dining for tourists and residents alike.” 

In other words, the Market Place is likely to become an upscale mall.

The mall-ing of the Market Place will no doubt bring dismay to many who have happy memories of the place, its colorful jumble of kiosks and souvenir shops.

However, there are many in Hawai‘i who feel the prime Waikiki real estate occupied by the aging Market Place cries out for redevelopment. The Queen Emma Land Co. itself is a income-producing non-profit, which supports The Queen’s Medical Center, a major hospital and healthcare provider for Hawai‘i residents and visitors.


Photos: International Market Place

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