Demolition and rebirth began Thursday at Aloha Tower Marketplace, where the next iteration is a mix of college dorms and retail.
"We plan dormitories on the second floor," said Scott Hiyashi, asset manager for Hawaii Pacific University. "On the first floor we'll have some restaurants and stores. It should be a good experience for students and we can't wait to move the first of them in."
The entire project, details of which are still being worked out, is to be finished by summer 2015.
Two restaurants, Hooter's and Gordon Biersch, intend to try to stay open during construction.
"We're looking forward to serving all those students," said Gordon Biersch GM Joe Glarner.
Glarner said the key to surviving the construction – and preserving 100 jobs at the restaurant – will be good signage so people know they're still open beyond the plywood.
A leading commercial real estate broker says the project is good for all of downtown because it reflects HPU's commitment to stay in the city.
"HPU occupies a very large amount of downtown office space," said Jamie Brown of Hawaii Commercial Real Estate LLC. "When the students are coming and going the city is really vibrant. Taking this space at the waterfront further increase's the university's role in keeping this a lively downtown area.
Brown said office workers tend to cross the street to have lunch at Aloha Tower only for special occasions, but students accustomed to crossing the street to walk to class may be quicker to patronize restaurants and shops mauka of the Marketplace.
HPU took a stake in Aloha Tower Marketplace in partnership with a developer in 2011, and bought out its partner in 2013. In its newest form the renovation plan calls for urban loft spaces for near 300 students and a small number of faculty and staff.
The hope is to have everything approved, built and open by 2015 when HPU marks its 50th anniversary.
Howard Dicus was live at Aloha Tower on Thursday morning with more on the construction on Hawaii Pacific University's renovations. He spoke with Scott Hayashi, the asset manager for HPU, general manager of Gordon Biersch restaurant Joe Glarner, and Jamie Brown from Hawaii Commercial Real Estate.