HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Pacific University students headed back to school Monday to a very different downtown campus.
The move has Restaurant Row buzzing again, while HPU’s former neighborhood at Fort Street Mall is taking a bit of a hit.
Traditionally, the first day of school for HPU means back to business for the small shops and eateries along the Downtown pedestrian-only street.
But there’s been a mass exodus of the college crowd since the university decided to move most of its facilities to Waterfront Plaza in Kakaako.
“We normally see a big uptick in student foot traffic, we have not seen that this year,” said Ed Korybski, the executive director of Fort Street Mall the Business Improvement District Association.
At lunch hour Monday, some businesses had no customers, and many of the tables students used to gather at are now empty ― a stark contrast to years past.
Meanwhile, at Waterfront Plaza there was a steady stream of students arriving and hanging out in the courtyard. It was apparent HPU’s new classroom hub is revitalizing the area.
“We have a vibrant community here, and I know our retail partners are excited to have the traffic,” said Jennifer Walsh, HPU’s senior vice president and provost.
Until recently HPU’s Downtown facilities were scattered among seven buildings in the Fort Street Mall area and along Bishop Street.
While nearly all have now been vacated, some remain open in Pioneer Plaza.
The Fort Street Mall Business Improvement District Association says it’s not just the loss of the students hurting the foot traffic.
The satellite City Hall moved a few blocks away, contributing to the decline.
In addition to that, the tower at 1132 Bishop is in the process of transforming from office to residential units. That has meant many workers that supply customers to the Fort Street Mall establishments have moved out.
But the association is hoping once the tower conversion happens a new wave of business will be born.
“It’s going to be a shift for restaurants, because right now since they cater to office workers it’s primarily a breakfast and lunch crowd, but if we are catering to residents it’s going to be more of a dinner crowd,” said Korybski.