FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Evan Morita, owner of Florist Grand, appeared to be in one of the huge vases he uses for floral decorations as he set up yesterday for last night's Louis Vuitton party at the historic Kakaako Pump Station along Ala Moana Boulevard.
Sewage plant gets a designer makeover
Louis Vuitton dressed up a former Kakaako sewage pumping station last evening for an elegant gala event for exclusive international guests as the company celebrates the expansion of its Ala Moana store.
It was the first event held at the state-owned former sewage pumping station, which had sat in disuse and disarray since the 1950s. Historic preservation officials hope last night's party heralds the rebirth of the site, which is on both the state and national registries of historic buildings.
Louis Vuitton, a French company synonymous with luxury handbags, selected the building because of its architectural and historic importance to Honolulu, company officials said. The choice seemed appropriate to celebrate the rejuvenation and growth of both the pump station and the store.
"We hope to spark some interest to have others come aboard and to do something with this beautiful facility that we have here in Honolulu," said Dale Ruff, regional vice president for Louis Vuitton Hawaii.
In February, company officials approached the Historic Hawaii Foundation and the Hawaii Community Development Authority to help arrange last night's party.
"We were thrilled," said David Cheever, interim director of the foundation, which has been helping to clean up the building. "They kick-started a lot more activity. That's when we went into high gear as well."
In March, Historic Hawaii Foundation and Hawaii Architectural Foundation volunteers and private companies began cleaning up the area of nonhistoric concrete block sections of the building. In May, Louis Vuitton hired Clifford Projects to landscape the dirt and weeds around the building.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The historic Kakaako Pump Station at Ala Moana Boulevard, built in 1900 but in disrepair since the 1950s, was the site of a party last night. Host Louis Vuitton is working with the state to restore the site; a fund-raiser tonight will raise money for repair work.
Ruff said it is the first time Louis Vuitton has been involved in the renovation of a historic building.
Last night's guests were not told of the secret location of the special dinner, but inside the historic hand-cut bluestone with a tall smokestack on Ala Moana and Keawe Street lay some surprises.
The broken glass of the church-like picture windows in the front of the building were replaced with plexiglass, decorated last night with colorful transparent decals of the company's logo icons.
Hanging from the ceiling were 19th-century Louis Vuitton trunks. A two-way mirror wall with computerized lighting showcased fine handbags inside.
Outside, wooden plank flooring, walls of rich brown and newly planted grass, and areca palms created an oasis on Ala Moana.
Tables and chairs wore natural and chocolate brown linen bearing the company's logo icons. Square glass vases held chocolate cymbidia and Bordeaux dahlias.
The setting also will be used for a sold-out fund-raiser tonight, with all proceeds going to repairs and renovation work.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority, which regulates Kakaako development, has received more than 70 suggestions for the building's future use, including a car dealership, Cheever said.
Cheever estimated that restoring the building, including new roof tiles and electrical work, will cost about $2 million.
Private companies Island Demo, Hawaiian Dredging & Construction Co. and Painter's Warehouse donated labor and materials to prepare the building for the events yesterday and today, Cheever said.
The building was designed by architect Oliver Traphagen, who also designed the Moana Hotel.