Friday, May 3, 2002

For the second time in the last three years, Wal-Mart has reached an agreement to buy the "superblock" property at Keeaumoku Street near the Ala Moana Center. The store chain has been a magnet for shoppers, such as these at the Royal Kunia branch last year.

Wal-Mart in new
deal to buy ‘superblock’

The discount retailer plans a
megacenter by Ala Moana Center

By Lyn Danninger and Tim Ruel

Massive retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has reached an agreement to buy the "superblock" property on Keeaumoku Street near Ala Moana Center for the second time in the past three years.

The sale is expected to close in a month, and the company is planning to build a double-decker megacenter with a Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club, similar to a plan Wal-Mart had the last time it had a deal to buy the property, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin. One main difference this time is that Wal-Mart plans to build small shops along Keeaumoku, as requested by the city, Lin said.

The megacenter could open by late 2003 or early 2004.

The agreement was reached this week with property owner the Wichman Family Trust. The price was not disclosed, though real estate experts have estimated it at $30 million.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is represented locally by commercial real estate firm Colliers Monroe Friedlander. A spokesman from the company was not available to comment.

The purchase would establish a major Honolulu presence for Wal-Mart, which has stores in Kunia and Mililani, and has a contract to buy 20 acres of city-owned land in Pearl City for another Wal-Mart.

In 2000, Wal-Mart announced its previous agreement to buy the 10.5-acre site bordered by Keeaumoku, Rycroft, Sheridan and Makaloa streets.

In April 2000, neighbors and unionized grocery workers protested the plans, arguing Wal-Mart would bring unfair competition and below-average wages.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., subsequently allowed its purchase agreement to lapse.

Lin cited factors including improved financial and market conditions in resurrecting the purchase. "We've always maintained an interest in this site," she said. Developers have kicked around proposals for the vacant Keeaumoku site since the late 1980s.

The latest attempt to develop the site by retailer Kmart Corp. fell through after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Kmart said its plans for a $50 million store at the site was too much at the wrong time. Kmart had originally announced plans to build a 175,000-square-foot store.

In 2001, big-box retailer Home Depot announced its intention to buy the site but quickly backed off the idea.

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