Walmart has announced plans to open a new retail store downtown in the space that was recently vacated by Macy's.
Walmart said it purchased the commercial building and parking structure from an affiliate of Lexington Realty Trust for an undisclosed price. It plans to begin a complete interior modeling of the two-story building in the next several months and expects to open the new store next year.
"We're always looking for opportunities to serve our customers better, and in this case we saw a great opportunity with the vacancy at this retail space," said Delia Garcia, Walmart's director of communications.
The building's parking garage will continue to operate during store construction and will also be resurfaced and have improved lighting installed.
"We're pleased to continue the retailing tradition at this prime business location in Honolulu's downtown urban core," said Rey Armijo, Walmart's Hawaii market manager.
"To me, having a Walmart there is a brilliant move. I wish I had thought of it," said real estate consultant Stephany Sofos, who added that the store could tap into the 40,000 workers and 30,000 residents in the downtown area. "This is the old classic, if you build it, they will come. And because it's on a pedestrian mall area, you will have people. They'll shop, and then they'll take their shopping home, so it will alleviate a lot of time for the average working local person."
The two-story, 80,000 square-foot store is expected to employ 150 people. Construction will require 60 contract workers.
"I'm encouraged and pleased to learn of Walmart's plans for their new store in downtown Honolulu," said Jim Tollefson, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. "It's a great help to our communities when businesses support not only jobs for our construction workers, but also long-term jobs for our island economy."
"Of course they're gonna have employment. That's the good part," said Chu Lan Schubert-Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business and Community Association. "The bad part is the little guys need more help now. Because they cannot compete with the big guys. And we have so many little guys in Chinatown."
Downtown residents and workers reacted positively to the news. "I think it's just nice for a lot of people who live downtown, HPU students and lot of the people who live downtown, just to have a place where they can come get just about everything," said resident Cort Chambers. "I think a lot of people will be happy. I can see the other side, how it may impact some of the businesses, but it may also be like a magnet and bring more people downtown and even open more businesses, hopefully."
"If Walmart's here, we bring customers to downtown," said Amy Guerino, who works at a small downtown dress shop. "That's good for small businesses actually."
Garcia said Walmart will concentrate on general merchandise with limited groceries, because of the smaller size of the store. She said it hasn't been determined yet whether it will be open 24 hours.
The building's previous retailer, Macy's, closed its doors last February.