KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - We're now about halfway through Kapolei's planned expansion that began in the 90's. Twenty years ago about 43,000 people lived in Kapolei. That population jumped about 25,000 in a decade. According to Kapolei.com in five years population is projected to hit 129,000 and then 173,000 by 2025. That's about the same population as the entire Big Island and all those people will have plenty of shopping options.
Right now about half of the Kapolei Commons shopping center is grass, dirt and open space, but within a couple years the land will have Regal Cinemas, restaurants and more than 100 outlet shops.
"Typically Hawaii is under retailed if you compare it to the mainland so we do have room for growth," said Eric Tema, Partner with The MacNaughton Group. "It's becoming truly the second city and a community really thrives when it has a shopping, a dining and an entertainment area for families to gather."
The project is one of many on Leeward Oahu, including the $800 million Disney expansion of Ko Olina which is scheduled to open next year. And the proposed start of the $5.5 billion rail line which could break ground next year. Now the Kapolei Commons expansion will create another 750 construction jobs along with 700 more long term jobs. Overall projections for the Kapolei region predict 40,000 new jobs in the next 20 years.
"If you can work in this area and shop in this area that's the best of both worlds," said Tema.
For people we spoke with it can't get finished fast enough.
"We are thrilled that there are shops down here. You don't have to go to Honolulu to eat at a good restaurant because going down there is like a tedious task," said Nonette Agustino-Flora, Kapolei Resident.
"Well for the economy that's good, more jobs and I agree with that. It gives us lower prices so we can shop anyplace else because the economy is really bad right now," said Shelleen Sapla, Mililani Resident.
"It's actually pretty exciting because when we are in Ewa Beach there aren't really many shopping centers around, and this is closer rather than going to Waikele," said Michelle Agliam, Ewa Beach Resident.
The shops and restaurants in the expansion could be ready to open as soon as late next year. Tema says the overall investment in Kapolei Commons is nearly $250 million.
Meanwhile another huge construction project in Kapolei is in a holding pattern. The Ka Makana Ali'i development is waiting for the governor's approval. The current plans depend on House Bill 1015, which lengthens the lease agreement for state lands. DeBartolo Development would lease 67 acres of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property to build more than a million square feet of retail and office space and two hotels. However that bill is on Governor Lingle's potential veto list.