CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
The food court at Windward Mall, shown here yesterday, will be closed early next year and renovated. Tenants were advised to contact the mall's leasing agent if they are interested in being part of the new food court.
Food court to be redone
Renovation work at Windward Mall will last most of next year and affect nine tenants
STORY SUMMARY »
Windward Mall will close its food court for top-to-bottom renovation early next year.
The early 2009 closure will shut down the food court's tenants for much of the year, with reopening scheduled prior to the holiday season.
Kamehameha Schools previously spent $23 million renovating the mall but could not renovate the food court at the same time due to a lease constraint.
Kristina Kim, president of the company that owns food court tenant Mama Woo's Bar B Q, is upbeat about the improvements the renovation will bring. However, she is uncertain what she, other tenants and employees will do during the closure.
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Windward Mall will close its food court early next year for renovation and expansion by Kamehameha Schools, which owns the facility.
Out to lunch
Tenants at Windward Mall's food court that will shut down early next year for a multimillion-dollar renovation of that segment of the mall:
» Blazin' Steaks
» Cafe Rein
» Chinatown Express
» Cookie Corner
» Golden Curry House
» I Love Country Cafe
» Little Tokyo
» Mama Woo's Bar B Q
"The idea is to do a complete redo of the food court, just like we did with the rest of the mall ... to bring in more light, open up the space and provide more seating for families and provide more room for the tenants," said Cathy Camp, retail development manager for Kamehameha Schools.
A yearlong, $23 million renovation of the mall was completed last August.
For its own makeover, the food court will shut down in February or March and reopen "prior to the holiday season," she said.
The shutdown plans were announced at a recent mall merchants' meeting and will displace nine tenants.
"All the tenants around that area and all the tenants within the food court are on temporary leases, or we have made provisions," said Jonathan Kim, general manager for General Growth Properties, which manages the mall.
Tenants were advised to contact the mall's leasing agent if they are interested in being part of the new food court.
Kim believes Cinnabon and the Cookie Corner are the longest-term tenants in the food court, which has not been altered since the mall was completed in 1982.
Representatives of both companies and several other tenants did not return calls.
"The food court was (previously) leased to one entity. They had control over the food court since the mall opened," Kim said. "That lease finally expired Jan. 31 of 2007, so we took back the operation of the food court and are now responsible for direct leasing to the tenants."
The food court lease was the reason the work was not done at the same time as the $23 million mallwide renovation, said Camp.
Kristina Kim, president of Hwang-Keum-Chong Inc., parent company of food court tenant Mama Woo's Bar B Q, is accustomed to the ups and downs of business.
"Before I came to the mall, I was expecting something with the mall," she said.
"I won't complain about it. ... I'm happy that the mall will look nice after, and I'm hoping we can draw more people into the mall."
Her Hawaii Kai BBQ operated at Kamehameha Schools' Hawaii Kai Towne Center for 13 years, but her lease was not renewed and she was glad to find space at its Windward Mall property.
"I will come back after the renovation," she said. She has four employees, who also had worked for her in Hawaii Kai. "I needed them," she said. She is discussing with them what will happen next year during the shutdown and is also considering what she will do. "I might go open something else in the mall," she said but added, "I haven't really had a vacation in five years."
She estimates that "plus-or-minus 50 people," are employed by food court vendors.
The drawing board
Kamehameha Schools considered renovating the food court in its current configuration, doing a slight remodel or "bringing it up to the standard" for a food court in a mall the size of Windward Mall, Kim said.
The latter was chosen.
Honolulu-based Next Design LLC is working on renovation plans, which are still in the conceptual phase, with one possible configuration containing nine tenant spaces.
"We're looking at different sizes for vendor bays," said Camp. "National tenants will have specific requirements for what works for them, (while) local tenants tend to want a smaller space."
To get ideas, Camp, the architectural team and mall management toured various food courts around the island, as well as in Las Vegas while attending the International Council of Shopping Centers conference.
The renovation goal
"What we didn't want to create is something that looks like a cafeteria," Camp said.
Rather, they want the appearance to be "more family-oriented, more comfortable ... just a lot more friendly," that brings in more natural light from the mall's sky-lighted center court area.
The renovation also will seek "to bring in the history and culture of the site in Kaneohe," as Kamehameha Schools did in reflecting the history of the Helumoa area in its Royal Hawaiian Center project.
The food court restrooms also will be updated, and the elevator is being evaluated as well, Camp said.
The finished food court will have "a lot more seating," said Kim -- "I think double the size of the seating right now," to 300-plus seats from the current 150 to 160.
Plenty to eat
Shoppers won't starve while the food court is being renovated, Kim said.
The mall has 20 other tenants offering snacks, quick-service meals and table-service dining.
Separately, longtime tenant Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor has closed. A mall tenant for many years, it had several different operators and had been on a month-to-month lease, Kim said.
It was given notice to vacate, and a temporary lease was offered to Boston's North End Pizza "because it's a category we don't presently have in the mall," Kim said.
It is scheduled to open July 1. Boston's operates a takeout and dine-in restaurant on Kawa Street, right across from the mall on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway.
The lease is temporary as there are plans to "consolidate and convert certain spaces in that area," but Kim could not divulge details.