CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Hawaii Times Building, built in 1897, is seeing new life as an office condominium. Most units are likely to be bought by existing tenants, but a few are now on the market.
Historic office condo debuts
The units are on the market in downtown's emerging arts district
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The historic Hawaii Times Building, which once housed the Nippu Jiji, a Japanese-language newspaper, is now being offered as an office condominium.
MC Architects founder Steven Marlette bought the building along with several other investors this summer as 928 Nuuanu Partners LLC and converted it to condominiums to improve the neighborhood.
Daniel Jarrett of Grubb & Ellis, the listing broker for the building, said most of the current tenants are interested in purchasing their own offices.
Many creative-type professionals are also showing interest in this new office opportunity in the Chinatown arts district.
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Though most of Chinatown's commercial property market has long been stagnant, there is one historical building creating some real estate movement in the district.
The 110-year-old Hawaii Times Building at 928 Nuuanu Ave., next door to O'Toole's Irish Pub, has been renovated into 15 office condominiums that are now on the market.
The smallest office condo, measuring just under 300 square feet, is listed for $103,600 while the penthouse, offering more than 2,000 square feet, is listed for $1.2 million.
The penthouse suite comes with a full kitchen, bathroom, lanai and ocean views, and could serve as a live-work loft. A ground-floor retail space offering 3,412 square feet, with private offices, a conference room and men's and women's bathrooms, is also available, for $1.6 million.
Grubb & Ellis is the listing agent for the Dickey building, which once housed the Japanese-language newspaper Nippu Jiji, later called the Hawaii Times.
"I would say about 85 percent of the current tenants are interested in buying," said Daniel Jarrett of Grubb & Ellis.
The brick and volcanic stone exterior will remain intact, given that the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior, however, has been updated with fresh paint, a new air-conditioning system and renovated common areas.
Steven Marlette, founder and principal of MC Architects a block up the street, purchased the building along with a few other investors back in June.
Marlette said he saw it as an opportunity to improve the neighborhood, as well as to offer creative professionals in Chinatown the chance to own their own offices.
MC Architects, at 1044 Nuuanu Ave., has been in the neighborhood since before it became an emerging arts district.
The Hawaii Real Estate Commission approved condo documents for the building earlier this week, Jarrett said.
The building is zoned BMX4, or central business mixed use, which allows retail, office or residential uses.
In 2004, the city lifted restrictions on residential loft developments in second-floor spaces -- but the concept never quite took off. Efforts are under way to convert the Mendonca Building into an artist's live-work loft, while a feasibility study is also being conducted to see what is holding the loft developments back.
The Times Building is made up of two components -- a 2-story building, and an attached 5 1/2-story building that includes the penthouse.
Jarrett estimated that about three-quarters of the tenants -- mostly creative professional firms -- had expressed interest in buying their units.
Among current tenants are Pacific Music Production, Shooters Film Production and the Whipping Post, which is a post-production facility.
Lauren Inake, an associate producer at Shooters, said the company was interested in purchasing its office, where it has been a tenant at least 10 years.
"It's a great location," she said. "We're near all the agencies that we work with, close to great restaurants, and everything is within walking distance."
A number of companies have been looking at the offices, according to Jarrett, ranging from financial advisors to digital media companies, photographers, artists and a few advertising firms.
"Our building is a creative, artsy building," he said. "Chinatown is becoming a more trendy, cultural place and this ties into that."
The Times Building will hold an open house at First Friday in December.
Property records indicate the building sold for $4.4 million in May 2007.
Retail and office space at another recently renovated building, King's Court, at 12 S. King St., is going for a base rent of between $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot per month. The building is also zoned BMX-4.
The last few office buildings to be converted into condos and sold on the market in downtown Honolulu include Queen's Court and the Alakea Corporate Tower.