Center to serve as fourth Kamehameha campus
Sandy Bassett, a 1964 Kamehameha Schools graduate, teared up during a sneak peek yesterday at her alma mater's efforts to transform its iconic multi-million Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center into a fourth campus.
"How do I feel about this place? Just look at me. Feel my hand. I have chicken skin," said Bassett as she surveyed the restoration of the center's Royal Grove. The grove is near where Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop wrote the will that bequeathed her estate, now worth some $7 billion, to Kamehameha Schools.
Bassett and other volunteer hosts from Kamehameha Schools got an in-depth look at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center's transformation along with 84 journalists from the Society of American Travel Writers' Western Chapter, in Waikiki for their annual conference this week.
The conference provided an opportunity for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau to publicize the opening of the Waikiki Beach Walk and the more than $1 billion of public and private improvements, including the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, that are in progress in Waikiki.
Revenues from the center, on six acres of prime real estate in Waikiki, enable Kamehameha Schools to educate children of Hawaiian ancestry.
"The center represents about 10 percent of our real estate land portfolio," said Susan Todani, director of development and planning for Kamehameha Schools, the owner of the center. "It's our most significant asset not only from a monetary but from an emotional standpoint as well."
Three concrete bridges have been removed to create a more welcoming environment where visitors can mingle and learn about Hawaiian culture. Six gardens, filled with native and endemic trees and plants, a glass Hale and a bronze statue created in honor of Princess Pauahi by kamaaina artist Sean Browne will also grace the grove upon its completion by year's end.
"We envision the center as a fourth campus for our children," Todani said. "We'll establish internships and docent programs for our students here. We'll also schedule record releases, music launches and regular entertainment, where our students will be able to learn and share about their Hawaiian culture."
The center also will offer free hula, ukulele and Hawaiian arts and performance classes, she said.
The community will have its first in-depth look at the restoration on Dec. 19 when the center will hold a celebration to unveil Princess Pauahi's statute on her birthday, Todani said.