DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tenants of Victoria Ward are complaining that the newest phase of redevelopment has taken all of their parking. The parking area where people used to park for Ward Village is now blocked off by construction.
Parking riles Ward tenants
Construction at Victoria Ward has some businesses mad about the temporary loss of nearby parking
A jump in the real estate market has given Chi Chi Trinidad, vice president and part-owner of One Stop Financial, a boom in business, but recent construction outside her office has created parking woes that she says threaten her success.
Trinidad, who said she chose to lease space at the IBM Building in part because of its convenient parking, is just one of many Victoria Ward office and retail tenants up in arms after their landlord, General Growth Properties, told them that they would have to find long-term alternate parking -- at a time when parking spaces and rates are at a premium all over the island.
General Growth, which owns Victoria Ward and Ala Moana Center, has received several complaints from tenants surrounding Ward Village since giving notice in mid-January that it would have to remove more than 100 parking stalls due to the center's multimillion-dollar renovation, said Donna Farrell, general manager of Victoria Ward.
The renovation will add 1,000 parking stalls, but not for about 22 months, Farrell said.
In the meantime, Victoria Ward tenants have been given an option of using valet parking or parking in designated spaces makai of Sears at Ala Moana Center, Farrell said. Additional customer parking, generally after hours, is available at Ward Plaza and behind the Ward Industrial Center, she said.
Still, Trinidad said the interim lack of parking is a major consideration for every tenant of the IBM Building, which is on Ala Moana between Ward Centre and the new Hokua high-rise condominium.
Employees and clients of her office are taking up to 40 minutes to find parking amid the construction.
"The bottom line for me is that when my Realtors, mortgage solicitors and clients have to drive around and around to get a parking space rather than closing loans, the revenue at my business is going down," Trinidad said.
Without parking it's also hard to keep and attract workers in a tight labor market, she said.
Farrell said much of the parking problems relate to the popularity of the area among visitors and residents. "This is something that we'll continue to look at and evaluate how to best keep the parking so that it's effective for customers and the retail environment that we are serving," she said.
In the meantime, Victoria Ward's office tenants are complaining because they lost the spaces that came with their leases, making it difficult for employees and clients to conduct business efficiently. Retailers, who are already reporting increased rental, operating and labor costs, are complaining because if parking is tight, consumers may make more convenient shopping choices.
STAR-BULLETIN / SEPTEMBER 2001
Tenants of the IBM Building on Ala Moana, shown here, have temporarily lost their parking to construction.
There's no underestimating the importance of parking in a competitive retail environment, said Carol Pregill, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.
"The key is not just parking -- it's providing convenient parking," Pregill said. "Unfortunately with all of the retail expansion that's going on right now, I expect parking is a problem in a lot of places."
"In the short term, it creates a pinch," Farrell said.
As a result, tenants like real estate analyst Stephany Sofos are telecommuting, sharing parking spaces among employees or hiking back and forth from Ala Moana Center in the sun and rain.
"I've got people to meet and I have to walk half a mile away -- it's beyond inconvenient," Sofos said. At night, walking between Ala Moana and Victoria Ward is dangerous, she added. "I understand General Growth's situation, but they should have taken care of their present tenants prior to this situation."
Farrell said the company is trying to work with tenants to ease inconveniences, but the nature of the project -- which includes 218 rental apartments -- limits how much General Growth can do.
Some small-business owners at the IBM Building, however, say that their complaints are falling on deaf ears.
"It's like complaining to God," Trinidad said, comparing the parking situation at Victoria Ward to the biblical tale of David and Goliath.
Beyond complaining, options are limited for tenants, said Vincent Yee, sales manager at Rentals Illustrated, who had just signed a lease to rent space in the IBM Building before General Growth's parking announcement.
"We talked about moving but decided against it because some of us walk and take the bike," Yee said.
The additional commuting time is impacting business, he said.
"Searching for parking cuts back on hours," Yee said. "We think that we can wait it out, but they just better not raise the rent."