Waikiki International Market Place breaks ground
The groundbreaking today was symbolic. The location: iconic under the old banyan tree at the Waikiki International Market Place.
Even the mayor and governor recalled fond memories of yester-year.
It was in a corner under that tree where Rick Ralson would launch his T-shirt business.
"It wasn't Crazy Shirts at the time but I think people thought he was crazy to do airbrushing," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
Queen Emma Land Company which owns the six-acre parcel says great care was taken to plan a Hawaiian sense of place.
"It's a really difficult tension when you try and take something old and make it new and you don’t want to lose the soul of the place and the reality is the tree is the soul of the International Market Place. It's iconic. It's what people remember," said Queen Emma Land Company’s Rick Tsujimura.
"In this case they actually digitialized the tree limbs and built and designed around it so they will be the feeling of being in the canopy of the tree, which I kind of think is a marvelous concept," Tsujimura said.
The new Waikiki Market Place calls for a mix of 75 retail shops anchored by Saks 5th Avenue.
There will also be dining and entertainment venues.
"We of course are going to have seven restaurants and we want to have local restaurants, some great ones and and we are talking to them very actively, as well as to have some great chains, the upscale chains," said William Taubman, CEO of Taubman Centers.
But a key component to the plan will be 750 parking spaces that they hope will bring residents back to the area.
"The customer is going to be the local customer here as well as the visitor. We really think the parking. The ease of parking, both valet and self-park is going to be a huge advantage," Taubman said.
Work is already underway to take these structures down. Heavy equipment is in place and crews are to begin demolition on the Kuhio side of the marketplace.
Trenching work has already unearthed iwi, but there is a plan in place to handle reinterment of bones as they are found during construction.
As for the impact of the construction on the iconic banyan, officials said the company has already done its homework and is making sure it does not damage the tree roots in the construction process.
Target for the grand opening of the marketplace is spring 2016.
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