HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now)- Waikiki's International Market Place is a shopping mecca for souvenirs and Hawaiiana, wedged between high end retailers, but its days are numbered.
Land owner Queen Emma Land Company is developing a shopping center there anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue.
That's inspired an online petition signed by close to 15-hundred people to "stop Saks." Opponents fear waikiki will become another Rodeo Drive.
As flight attendants, Stacy Surapine and Lisa Flaherty enjoy experiencing other cultures. They think it would be a shame to lose the International Market Place to a department store that's found in other States.
"The first time I came here, I thought this isn't what I expected" says Flaherty, who thinks Kalakaua Avenue already resembles Beverly Hills' famous shopping stretch on Rodeo Drive.
Tenants have been told crews will start tearing down the Miramar Hotel this December. That would pave the way for demolition on the International Market Place early next year.
Queen's says the development will create hundreds of jobs and fund creation of a Queen's medical center in West Oahu. But, for those who have shopped there over the years, they say it's sad to say aloha to a place with so much history and character.
As Surapine reflects, "A lot of people coming here remember this place. It's just someplace we come to get local stuff. It's already commercialized enough. Leaving a little bit of old Hawaii is paramount. It's what you remember."
Flaherty adds shoppers should "support the locals. All these local people selling all these goods. I love coming here and supporting that. I don't think a Saks 5th Avenue is needed here."
Vendors say it's unsettling not knowing what's happening or when.
Queen's says it's still "reviewing the feasibility" of putting a Saks Fifth Avenue at the site of Waikiki's International Market Place. A spokesperson adds that redevelopment "will support its mission to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians and the people of Hawai'i."
You can check out the online petition at this link.