Live-work-shop? The city wants to make it easier to build condos at shopping malls

It was just a few years ago that the Park Lane condominiums were built at Ala Moana Center.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 9:30 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 14, 2022 at 11:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was just a few years ago that the Park Lane condominiums were built at Ala Moana Center. What if more condos and apartments went up at shopping malls across Oahu?

It’s an idea gaining traction as many larger malls are suffering with more shoppers heading online — a trend accelerated by the pandemic.

But it’s not necessarily new.

“It’s been going on now for about 12 years across the United States. Started in Denver and it’s going all over,” said real estate expert Stephany Sofos.

“It generates more housing and it revitalizes retail for a lot of people.”

The city’s Department of Planning and Permitting wants to make it easier for malls to do that and is proposing a change to the city’s Land Use Ordinance.

“If you wanted to build on the top of the Kahala Mall, a developer would simply need to go and pull a building permit,” Katia Balassiano, of the city’s Land Use Permits Division, told the City Council on Thursday.

The idea is to simplify and execute housing construction.

Right now, there are no firm plans to actually build residential units above Kahala Mall — or at Pearlridge Center in Aiea or Windward Mall in Kaneohe. But if they wanted to under the current law, they would have to make a request before the City Council.

“How would the owners of Kahala Mall — Bishop Estate, Kamehameha Schools — be allowed to build?” asked Council Chair Tommy Waters.

“They would have to come in with a zone change,” replied Balassiano, who added they would have to apply for zoning to business mixed use, which would allow “ground-floor commercial and residential above.”

“You can say we have 30,000 acres on the Ewa Plain where you can still build, but the problem is that you don’t have the infrastructure,” said Sofos. “You don’t have enough roads, you don’t have enough sewer lines.”

Sofos said those would already be in place for residential construction above a shopping mall.

“The developer could sell the condominiums, get the cash to revitalize the shopping center, and it could became a win-win for everybody.”

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