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  1. #1
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    Apr 2004
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    Unhappy Aloha Tower Marketplace

    Chai's Island Bistro, one of the few remaining signs of life at Aloha Tower Marketplace is closing at the end of the year.

    I'm not sure if the complex was ever really thriving, though I'm certain people used to spend more time there (poor parking notwithstanding). I do recall a rather messy change in management a few years ago, after which things really seemed to fall apart.

    It used to be a favorite place for my in-laws to wander for a morning each time they visited. Last year, I met them there to find a veritable ghost town. Empty retail spaces everywhere, with tiny businesses lost in space, eking out an existence like weeds in the cracks of a broad expanse of cold concrete.

    Now a seemingly perfectly positioned retail and dining hotspot is being eyed as a place to stash HPU students... making for perhaps one of the more picturesque college dorm settings out there.

    Similar to Restaurant Row, dumping the food-promising moniker for a more generally corporate name (One Waterfront), it seems the harbor area is a tough place to do business. Any ideas why?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    Quote Originally Posted by pzarquon View Post
    it seems the harbor area is a tough place to do business. Any ideas why?
    They charge crazy high $$$ so there will only be big pockets renting, the marketing was always sketchy, and with the everchanging mgmnt. and the risks that comes with that meant few are willing to gamble. Those that did had to charge high prices, limiting their shopper base to those with disposable incomes, and the place never felt welcoming, just cold and distant.
    I worked at Don Ho's their first year and they'd always bring in a crowd if the enticement was there with good music, otherwise they did fair to poor.
    The place can be a goldmine if done right, but when does Hawaii ever do anything right when high stakes are being played?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    I always liked that place, but parking was just ridiculous. I visited more often as a bus-riding pedestrian than I ever did as a driver, which can be a good thing in the right neighborhood, but it's a bad thing in that neighborhood.

    I'd love to see it hang on, or to experience a rebirth. The prices never bothered me because they seemed about right for the kind of businesses that existed there. I've never thought the prices at Gordon Biersch or Chai's were especially high for the type of establishments they were. The food court prices were slightly higher than one might expect in similar spaces, but they compared okay to the same types of joints in Waikiki.

    It was always the parking. Ask almost anyone who lives here why they don't go to Aloha Tower and the first thing they say is almost always parking.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    If you have no parking or incredibly high parking rates, people will always opt for a place where there is preferably free parking and that parking is plentiful. Aloha Tower Marketplace is definitely not it.

    My favorite thing to do there is take pictures of ships docked at the various piers or watch a few of them come and go. Aloha Tower itself is one of my favorite places... but I used to like it when there was no development there when the only thing you had to do about parking was plug a few coins in the meter.

    As for the eating places, except for a few political fundraisers that I been to, never really dined at any place per se except for the food court, which is now long gone.

    When I do go there, I tend to go on a Sunday when on street parking is free downtown and walk across treacherous Nimitz highway to get to the place.

    Another thing that did not help the concept I believe is 9-11. Prior to that cruise ships could dock at Pier 9, Piers 10 and 11. Today they can only dock at Piers 10 and 11 and many times way over at Pier 2, which I don't think tourist passengers want to walk from there to the Aloha Tower area. Plus they can all eat onboard the ship.

    I think whoever is in charge of the place will hopefully get a better deal out of HPU and the proposed dorm space that they want to convert most of the upper floors to. And more than likely some of the downstairs places will be leased out for classrooms or office space to HPU or someone else.

    Things however will get worst for the place once the "big expensive behemoth of rail"* and its construction rolls into the area in a few years.
    I'm still here. Are you?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    Quote Originally Posted by scrivener View Post
    It was always the parking. Ask almost anyone who lives here why they don't go to Aloha Tower and the first thing they say is almost always parking.
    Bullseye. The absence of free parking alone dooms any aspirations of ATM being a shopping/entertainment mecca for the locals, as I already declared in a previous post last year. And with the decision to convert retail space into student dorms, it would appear that the landlord has (at least for the time being) finally thrown in the towel trying to fill all of its empty units with stores that will cater either to tourists or locals.
    This post may contain an opinion that may conflict with your opinion. Do not take it personal. Polite discussion of difference of opinion is welcome.

  6. #6
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    Red face Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    I agree the parking was a key downside, but unavoidable that close to downtown. Considering what monthly parking costs, and what an hour costs at any private lot just two blocks away, they couldn't offer free or cheap parking (which anyone good at math would figure out makes leaving your car at Aloha Tower a more affordable option than any private lot). And though they tried to offset with 'validation,' that requires businesses worth spending money on.

    On the other hand, the size of crowds for concerts and other special events suggests that people will find a way to get there, if there's anything worth seeing. Upper end restaurants aren't quite enough to make it a hangout hotspot (Chai's or Gordon Biersch on certain nights are probably the best it got).

    I do think someone could've done something special there, even if it was based entirely on bussed-in tourists. But the current management just didn't hit on it.

    BTW, I would say, given scrivener's "I visited more often once I started riding the bus" observation, that the arrival of rail could actually help Aloha Tower find a sustainable retail mix. Until then, slamming in college dorms (which, if managed well, offer reasonable and stable revenue with less risk) seems like a smart move.

  7. #7
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    Post Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    Having been to many enjoyable times at Aloha Tower Marketplace and finding parking and the prices for restaurants as expected, though shops very high end...
    I figure the businesses just don't get enough of the buying/spending public to pay the high rents eh?
    Life is either an adventure... or you're not doing it right!!!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Aloha Tower Marketplace

    Quote Originally Posted by pzarquon View Post
    On the other hand, the size of crowds for concerts and other special events suggests that people will find a way to get there, if there's anything worth seeing.
    I think the operative word there is "special." Retail shops and restaurants can't survive on a big crowd that comes along once a month or so. At least, not at the rent that ATM tenants are being charged.

    And just because a particular location is suitable as a concert venue does not automatically mean there's a path to make that same place a successful shopping mall.... especially if we're talking about parking (or the lack thereof). People don't typically haul a cart load of merchandise away from a concert site, right? But people who go shopping do. Ergo, they'll need a place to park their vehicle close by in order to take their purchases home. Concert goers might tolerate having to use public transportation or parking their cars in a remote location. But local shoppers are a totally different story.

    Quote Originally Posted by pzarquon View Post
    I do think someone could've done something special there, even if it was based entirely on bussed-in tourists.
    The Queen Emma Foundation has recently announced plans to overhaul the International Market Place and re-develop it into a complex that will house high-end retail tenants. Potentially, this opens an opportunity for ATM if they are open-minded towards filling the niche that the IMP is abandoning. Think about it. Currently, a steady flow of tourists are willing to make the trek to Halawa in order to shop for souvenirs at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet that's open for business 3 days a week. What if you had a swap meet/bazaar type of ambiance at Aloha Tower 7 days a week? If you ask me, going after bargain-hunting tourists makes more sense than trying to stick with a business model (high-end retail) that has been a miserable failure at the waterfront for well over a decade now.
    Last edited by Frankie's Market; December 4th, 2012 at 03:32 AM.
    This post may contain an opinion that may conflict with your opinion. Do not take it personal. Polite discussion of difference of opinion is welcome.

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