Posted on: Monday, March 24, 2008

Aina Haina Shopping Center getting a facelift

By Kim Fassler
Advertiser Staff Writer


Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The 58-year-old Aina Haina Shopping Center is getting a "new character" and a "new look" from owner American Commercial Equities LLC.


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A California-based real estate investment company intends to spend as much as $7 million to give Aina Haina Shopping Center a facelift and plans a new mix of tenants, leaving at least one longtime business looking for a new location.

B. Wayne Hughes Jr., vice president of American Commercial Equities LLC, said the company wants to give the 58-year-old complex a "new character" and a "new look."

"The center is tired, and yet it represents one of the more desirable communities on O'ahu," he said. "We want to bring it up to the standard the community has already set."

The design plans will be finalized within the next two months, Hughes said. They may include altering the facade of the buildings, changing rooflines, adding new store fronts and signage and reshaping the parking area to include a greenbelt.

American Commercial Equities LLC boughtspacer the 62,000-square-foot East O'ahu center for $32 million in June 2007.

The center was founded by members of the Hind family in 1950 near the old Hind-Clarke Dairy. It was the site of Hawai'i's first McDonald's, Chuck E. Cheese and Dunkin' Donuts, which has since left the complex.

Many businesses have leases that expire within two or three years. No leases for existing tenants have been terminated and no new leases have been signed, Hughes said.

The lease for Chuck E. Cheese, which will expire Dec. 31, 2008, will not be renewed, he said.

He declined to comment on what might be going in its place, saying only, "it will be better for the community than having Chuck E. Cheese there."

Chuck E. Cheese franchisee Wayne Hayami said he is "definitely disappointed" that his business will not be included in the center's plans. The franchise has been part of the center for more than 25 years.

"There are a lot of changes within the center," he said. "Lots of rumors going around with all the tenants."

Aina Haina Shopping Center is currently anchored by a Foodland and includes several restaurants, a surf shop, a hair salon, a post office and two banks.

Many of the center's tenants said recently that they had heard little from the company about the future of their businesses.

"They want to do something, but we don't know what yet," said Shirley Kodani, the owner of Hibiscus BBQ, a tiny Korean take-out place sandwiched between a coffee shop and tae kwon do studio. The restaurant has been at Aina Haina Shopping Center for 12 years.

"All the tenants are scared the rents are going to double," she said. "We're a small take-out place. We can't afford that."

Some tenants are being given month-to-month or one-year extensions, but no one is being offered long-term extensions, Hughes said.

The company has been slow to reveal its plans because it is in no rush, he said.

"We're an entity that will hopefully own this shopping center for generations to come," he said.

On one recent day, a line of people stretched out of Doe Fang, a small shop selling specialty Icee drinks, candy and other items.

Owner Clayton Chang said he is waiting to hear the new owner's plans for the center, but that he is "not losing sleep" over it.

The center could use some new signage, he said, and could be a hub for not only residents, but tourists traveling to and from East O'ahu attractions such as Hanauma Bay.

"If they do it right, this center has so much potential," Chang said. "We've never had an owner who really capitalized on that."

The Kalani/Kuli'ou'ou Neighborhood Board hopes to meet with American Commercial Equities as their plans take shape, said board chairman Bob Chuck.

He said many community members were upset when, in 2004, Maui-based King's Cathedral and Chapels replaced many businesses in Niu Valley Shopping Center, with an infant nursery and stores providing church-related services, making it "not a very active shopping center."

"We don't want to be surprised," Chuck said.