BIG ISLAND NEWS - New shopping center planned !

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Summit to Sea Realty Corporation
West Hawaii Today - Monday, June 26, 2006 10:18 AM HST

A new regional shopping center is being planned for a vacant 65-acre parcel mauka of the soccer fields at the old Kona Airport.

Kona Commons will be developed by MK Kona Commons LLC, a joint venture of The MacNaughton Group and Kobayashi Group. The parcel will be leased from the Queen Liliuokalani Trust.

"We humbly hope that we will become the center of Kona," said Eric Tema, The MacNaughton Group's director of real estate development.

The first 130,000-square-foot increment of the shopping center will be almost equal to the size of the Parker Ranch Shopping Center and is expected to cost $40 million.

Tema said the MacNaughton Group is in lease negotiations with Office Max and Pier One Imports to anchor the first phase. He said they are also hoping to entice Border's Books and Music to relocate at Kona Commons.

Also in negotiations with the MacNaughton Group are Cost Plus World Market, as well as P.F. Chang's China Bistro restaurant.

Tema said the second increment will be 180,000 square feet, with the third 375,000 square feet. At build out, the 685,000-plus square feet built in additional phases would make Kona Commons more than 25 percent larger than the 505,000-square-foot Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.

"Kona Commons is envisioned as a gathering place for the community in an inviting, open-air setting," said Tema. "Our goal is to create an architecturally distinctive and stimulating environment for shopping, dining or simply enjoying a comfortable stroll in a friendly place," he said.

The first phase is designed primarily to accommodate the needs of large retailers that have committed to the project.

Boutiques and specialty shops will be located in the pedestrian-friendly main street area in subsequent phases. Development is targeted to begin in the first half of 2007 with the initial phase to be completed in 2008 and future phases 2009 likely to be completed by 2012.

"The main street design in future phases will offer shop owners the opportunity to express their unique identities and brands through individualized village-type storefronts, as well as provide the shopper or browser with a delightful strolling experience. Restaurants and outdoor cafes will invite shoppers to relax and stay a while," he said.

Kona Commons will integrate with the surrounding community and its rich heritage through architectural design, use of materials, landscaping and community programs. In this regard, the project will create a small-town ambiance with tree-lined sidewalks and street lamps instead of a traditional enclosed shopping mall.

"We have interviewed and met with numerous Kona residents who expressed a strong desire to have the best stores available in Kona, so they don't have to fly to Honolulu to shop," said Lee Ann Crabbe, vice president of Queen Liliuokalani Trust.

"Kona Commons complements trust plans for the area, which already includes an open market, and is drawing strong interest from national retailers. The project will produce income needed to support programs for orphaned and destitute children of Hawaiian ancestry as directed by our Queen."

"Pre-marketing results have been encouraging," reports Tema. "We believe the community will be pleased with the new tenants we will be introducing to the Kona market," he said.

Tema said he is also aware of the traffic situation in Kona, but said major improvements in the area, including the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening and the future extension of Kuakini Highway to the Kealakehe Parkway would serve to ease the burden.

"Duncan MacNaughton and I are firmly committed to the future of Kona," said Bert Kobayashi of the Kobayashi Group. "As owners of long-standing Hawaii companies, we've been deeply involved in Big Island business ventures as well as building our homes here."

Both the MacNaughton Group and Kobayashi Group are Honolulu-based development firms. MacNaughton developed Waikele Center, Maui Marketplace, Kukui Marketplace and Stadium Marketplace. Kobayashi has developed Kukio Beach Golf Club, Bishop Museum Science Center and other projects on various islands. They teamed together to develop the Hokua condominiums in Honolulu.

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