Revival of Royal Hawaiian Center

Restoring Flagship Status at Royal Hawaiian Center

Honolulu, HI - Royal Hawaiian Center
Posted by Seth Parker in Featured Articles, Retail Redevelopment on August 31st, 2010

The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center was opened in 1979 as the home to many of the flagship stores in Hawaii’s and one of Waikiki’s premier destinations. By 2005 it had lost most of its prized retailers and was experiencing significant vacancy issues. Its recent redevelopment, the first in 29 years, has restored its title as the home of more flagship stores than any other Hawaiian center and reconfirmed its position at Waikiki’s heart for both locals and visitors alike. The new Royal Hawaiian Center has world class status as an international retail and entertainment destination, while incorporating a sense of its Hawaiian heritage

Owned by Kamehameha Schools, the largest private landowner in Hawaii, and developed by the Festival Companies, Royal Hawaiian Center is a 310,000 square foot property on more than six acres adjacent to The Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki Hotels. Callison Companies, responsible for the redesign, transformed what was once a dark, outdated shopping center into a vibrant, lifestyle oriented retail and entertainment community.

Waikiki Revival

Often referred to as the “Rodeo Drive of Waikiki,” the Center boasts 1,200 linear feet of retail frontage along Kalakaua Avenue and 340 linear feet along Lewers St. Its revitalization and repositioning has enhanced Waikiki Beach’s luster and has been an important part of Waikiki’s revitalization and rebirth.

“Over the last ten years the City government has spent $100 million upgrading Waikiki infrastructure,” said Rick Egged of the Waikiki Improvement Association. “The private sector in turn has reinvested over $3.4 billion improving hotel rooms, retail, restaurants and showrooms making Waikiki more competitive in the world market. The Royal Hawaiian Center occupies the strategic core of this entire renaissance. Rejuvenating the cultural and economic heart of Waikiki with a cornucopia of places for shopping dining, entertainment and relaxation, the Royal Hawaiian Center has returned Waikiki to her roots.”

Redesigning for Today’s Retail

Hampered by its original “brutalistic style” architecture, a minimalist style once popular in the 1970’s, the property looked more like a parking garage than the upscale shopping center it was designed to be. It did little to blend into its tropical setting amid the historic and beautiful old hotels and vistas of Waikiki Beach.

As time went on the design proved to be fairly unforgiving and the center’s physical structure was unable to accommodate the evolving retail world. Over the years many of its flagship stores closed and at the time of redevelopment it had become a distressed property with only 50% occupancy.

As part of its redevelopment strategy, Festival initiated an entirely new merchandising plan for the shopping center. It wanted retailers at different price points offering something for everybody whether local shoppers or tourists from Japan, Europe or the American mainland. This same approach was taken with restaurant tenants resulting in a very compelling and successful tenant mix. “We market to the world,” said Rosalind Schurgin, CEO of Festival, “This is a global destination.”

Today, the center has a staggering 110 shops, including fifteen new two-level flagship retail anchors, situated in three buildings on four levels. Major retailers include the Apple Store, Cartier, Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, The Ferrari Store, Marciano, Bvlgari, bebe, LeSportsac, Rolex, Kaimena Kea, kate spade, Tourneau, Juicy Couture and FENDI. Despite the economic downturn, the revitalization of the center and accompanying marketing campaign has increased sales by 13% in 2009. Additionally, Forever 21 is slated to open a three-level, 42,500 square foot store in October 2010 marking the completion of the last phase of the redevelopment.

Softening the Hard Edges

The $115 million expansion was completed between July 2005 and June 2008. In addition the tenants have collectively invested approximately $100 million in the build out of their spaces. The result of this investment is a modern, lighter, more elegant look that more accurately portrays its tropical setting.

Gone are the heavy concrete walls of the original design, replaced by open, modern retail facades along Kalakaua Avenue and Lewers Streets. Despite the fact that Royal Hawaiian had always been open-air in nature, the outside walls almost completely sealed off the center from Waikiki’s main thoroughfare. Each flagship retailer’s fa�ade and storefront has its own individual design that combines the retailer’s brand with a Hawaiian sense of place.

The redesign features unique native landscaping and the use of extended beams and trellises providing a comforting filter from Hawaii’s ever present, brilliant sunshine. The design of the trellises were inspired by Hawaiian outrigger canoes and help to soften the hard exterior edges of the Center’s existing buildings. Additionally, three heavy pedestrian bridges have been replaced with a single, lighter footbridge that overlooks Royal Hawaiian’s most spectacular new addition, the Royal Grove.

A Sense of Hawaii

Built on the site of the former Royal Palace known as Helumoa, Royal Hawaiian Center now features a major cultural venue as well. A major portion of the center was demolished and transformed into one of the largest green spaces in Waikiki. The Royal Grove is a central place for gatherings and is lined with groves of coconut trees, lush native landscaping, as well as an open air ampi-theatre and performance areas where hula and other performance groups are scheduled several times each day. The Royal Grove serves as the gathering place for Royal Hawaiian Center and links the grounds between the Center, the hotels, and Kalakaua Avenue.

Giving up a retail space was a major sacrifice, but it is one of the key elements that has truly set this center apart from its modern-day Waikiki context. It has created a meaningful place and given a piece of Waikiki back to itself by restoring a glimpse of the native site, which originally boasted 10,000 coconut trees. A bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha and founder of the Kamehameha School, sits at the heart of the Royal Grove.

The new, strategically placed walkway connecting the main buildings overlooks the Royal Grove. Adjacent to the Royal Grove is the Kaulani Heritage Room, an air-conditioned space where visitors can see three films on Hawaiian culture and history.

Circulation, Pathways & Lanais

The redesign of the property improved pedestrian circulation and emphasized a Hawaiian sense of place. Consisting of three main buildings interconnected by bridges, elevators and escalators and to take advantage of pedestrian traffic new pathways connect the center to the surrounding hotels. A new “Makai” entrance facing both the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki Hotels, including a beautiful retail arcade, creates a resort like atmosphere.

New vertical transportation was added throughout the center and a performance theatre and restaurants with outdoor seating areas were positioned on the third and fourth levels to draw visitors to the upper levels of vertical retail space. Picking up from the land’s history, elements of the coconut tree, such as coconut fronds, cordage and bark, were used as the design inspiration and adorn the handrails, lighting and decorative elements throughout the center. Festival also added a number of lanais, or balconies, to the project. Some of the lanais were added to the anchor restaurant spaces, so diners can sit outside, while others simply allow shoppers to stop and take a look at the scenery.

Called the Pa'ina Lanai the new outdoor casual dining court caters to all tastes. Dining options include a wide variety of cuisines ranging from sushi to tacos. More traditional restaurant options are available as well including the highest grossing Cheesecake Factory in the world, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse of New York and Senor Frog’s of Cancun, Restaurant Suntory and Chibo both of Tokyo.

“Repositioning the Royal Hawaiian Center gave us the opportunity to create a destination that will be treasured by vacationers as well as locals,” said Robert Tindall, Callison chairman. “Our design approach focused on revitalizing the Center while being mindful of its prized location and importance to the Waikiki community. We have transformed an antiquated facility into a welcoming place that blends the lines between an outdoor shopping center and a Hawaiian garden.”

illustrative map showing the changes made during the revival project