DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Left to right, Rachel Hailiand her sisters Dona Pang, Sandra Antone and Lorraine Haili Alo work at Haili Hawaiian at the Ward Farmers Market, at left.
Price of change may be high for Ward businesses
General Growth's plan calls for replacement of the Farmers Market and IBM Building
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Longtime Ward businesses like Haili's Hawaiian Foods and Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center have weathered changes for nearly six decades, but they are doubtful they will be around when General Growth Properties' long-term vision for the area is complete.
General Growth's preliminary plans for the Kakaako district over the next 20 years call for an urban village -- a more unified district with more homes, open-style plazas and view corridors of the ocean.
But as with most redevelopment, the old will often have to go to make room for the new. Gone will be many of the older warehouses and other buildings on the 60 acres owned by General Growth.
This includes the Ward Farmers Market, Ward Warehouse and the IBM Building -- a 1960s design by the late Vladimir Ossipoff, whose work was the subject of a recent exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
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To make room for the new, oftentimes the old has to be removed.
Such is the thinking inherent in General Growth Properties' vision for the new Ward district of Kakaako over the next 20 years, which it wants to redevelop as an urban village with a grand central plaza, thousands of new condominium units and view corridors opening up to the ocean.
That would mean replacing most of the area's existing buildings, including Ward Farmers Market, Ward Warehouse and the IBM Building, according to General Growth's presentation to the state earlier this week.
While that would be incremental, with the first phase envisioned not starting for three years, it would mean the eventual demolition of places like Ward Farmers Market.
The 103,249-square-foot market on Auahi Street is one of the more obvious parts of the "old" Ward.
The plain, rectangular warehouse with a corrugated-tin awning is home to just a handful of tenants, anchored by Marukai Market Place, Haili's Hawaiian Foods and the Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center.
Haili's has been at the market for more than 60 years, and Tropic Fish going on 57 years this month. Both are multi-generation, family-run businesses that have weathered the changes surrounding them.
Lorraine Haili Alo, one of six sisters who run Haili's at the Farmers Market, has been bracing for that change for many years now.
She's seen many changes, both at the market as well as around her. A few years ago, two longtime vendors -- Bob's Fish Market and the Hiromoto Fish Market closed up shop -- and Marukai Market Place doubled its space next door.
"There used to be six vendors besides us, before Marukai," said Alo. "We all know each other."
Then the shiny, luxury high-rise condominiums -- the Hokua and Koolani -- went up nearby.
Alo has a loyal customer base that comes from as far as Hawaii Kai and Waianae, but she does not know how many residents of the luxury high-rises come by.
Will the same customers who sip Starbucks lattes and shop for organic lettuce want to swing by for a serving of squid luau and aku bellies? It's hard to say.
Tropic Fish, a wholesale and retail shop offering fresh seafood and produce, also has deep roots at the market. It's a third-generation business run by the Tanoue family.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Above, Lorraine Haili Alo took a food order from Gary Kaeka, right, who said he has been going to the Ward Farmers Market since he was eight years old in 1961. He said he was ordering Hawaiian food to send to his mother in Napa Valley, his sister in New Mexico and his brother in Washington state.
Smaller vendors include Lin's Market
, which offers crack seed, snacks and drinks, as well as Stanley's Chicken Market
, which sells fresh chicken and shave ice.
Alo knows she's surrounded by tenants paying higher rent -- and a definitively more upscale kind of shopping center.
She also knows, under current lease terms, that she could be given 45-day notice at any time to vacate the premises, but hopes she'll be able to stay for the customers that have always known Haili's where it is.
Yet she welcomes the planned Whole Foods Market store, which is slated to open nearby next year.
Retail analyst Stephany Sofos said the Ward farmers market used to be mostly light industrial to service fishing boats at Kewalo basin.
But given Ward's prime location near the waterfront, it makes sense that General Growth would want to renovate the properties into a more upscale retail and residential area.
"Can (local businesses) compete? Absolutely," she said, "But unfortunately, it's going to take a lot more money because the rents will go higher."
She calls it another generation of re-gentrification.
The IBM building is another structure that does not blend in with the more sleek, sophisticated landscape of the Ward to come.
A product of 1962, the squat and square, six-story building sheathed in an elaborate grille was innovative at the time, but doesn't quite match the newer, shiny condos towering above it across the street.
But it is a signature design of Vladimir Ossipoff, the late famed Hawaii architect who left his mark on numerous homes and buildings in the state, and the subject of a recent exhibit celebrating his works at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
Ossipoff's longtime friend and partner Sidney Snyder said it would be a shame to see the IBM building go.
"It's a very good building," said Snyder. "In a couple of years, it could be on the historic register. But what's more important is it's a landmark ... and it's highly thought of. There were many thoughtful touches to that building."