Monday, August 2, 1999

Hilton Hawaiian Village's Kalia Tower.

Waikiki will get
new hotel at the
Hilton compound

There are signals that the
long-delayed Kalia Tower will
be built at Hilton Hawaiian Village

By Russ Lynch


Waikiki is about to get its first new hotel in about four years, the long-delayed Kalia Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The 26-story, 453-room hotel on Kalia Road at the entrance to the Hawaiian Village is expected to cost at least $90 million and will take more than two years to build.

Hilton itself is declining comment and would not give out details today, but the company's final go-ahead is confirmed by invitations being received this week to a formal ground-breaking and blessing at the site Aug. 17.

Sources close to the project said the invitations mean that Hilton is proceeding, finally, on a project it first proposed in the early 1990s.

Plans were developed and the project got as far as a January 1997 announcement that Hilton had decided to build it, which would mean tearing down a 40-year-old landmark, the Hilton Dome, to clear the space.

Along came a downturn in tourism from Japan and the rest of Asia, adding to the lack of growth in tourism from the mainland for much of the decade, and the plans were stalled.

The last new hotel to appear in Waikiki was the 13-story, 396-room second tower of the Hale Koa Hotel, a recreation facility for Army personnel and their families.

In the 1990s, the only new commercial hotel has been the Hawaii Prince Hotel, a 32-floor, 550-room property that cost $150 million and opened in 1990.

The owners and operators of existing hotels, particularly the Sheraton, Outrigger and Hilton chains have spent several hundred million dollars on renovations but new, separate-standing hotel high-rises have been rare since the building boom of the 1970s and early 1980s.

"I think it's a really positive sign, in that it's showing their confidence in the market," Murray Towill, president of the Hawaii Hotel Association, said of Hilton's decision. "It's also part of their well-recognized commitment to Waikiki and the state."

Hilton demonstrated that commitment with its $400 million purchase of the remaining share of the ownership of 20 acres of fee-simple land that make up the Hilton Hawaiian Village site.

Hilton became 100 percent owner at the end of last year, after buying out the interest of Prudential Insurance Co. of America, the 50 percent owner for many years.

Hilton's invitation for the ground-breaking says the new tower will have a dramatic lobby "inspired by ancient and modern Hawaiian art," 453 rooms and suites, a health and wellness spa, an "interactive Hawaiian cultural center" and surrounding landscaping, waterfalls and lagoons. The plans sound like those of 1997, which had a complex stretching back from Kalia Road to connect with the existing Hawaiian Village parking structure and conference rooms.

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