Wednesday, May 19, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Council approves
Home Depot
land deal

The hardware store may
hire as many as 250 full-
time employees

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


A scientific survey says there would be only minimal economic impact from a Home Depot outlet opening at Pearl City Junction.

That prompted City Council members yesterday to approve in an 8-to-1 vote a $17.5 million sale of the 13.75-acre site to the big-box hardware chain, which has been trying for more than two years.

The economic impact study, done by SMS Research at the behest of the Council, says existing discount warehouse outlets already cut into the retail hardware and garden industry.

The Pearl City Junction site is expected to open in 12 to 18 months. Another Home Depot is expected to open in Iwilei this fall.

Planned at Pearl City Junction are a 130,000-square-foot store and a 15,000-square-foot garden center.

The store is expected to hire as many as 250 full-time employees and create up to 180 outside jobs in the way of suppliers and support services.

Not everyone was satisfied with the survey, however.

David Lundquist of the Community Revitalization Coalition argued unsuccessfully to have the final vote on the sale deferred until independent economists could study it.

Lundquist, who owns a hardware store in Kaneohe, said Home Depot purposely stalled distribution of the final draft of the impact study. "The impact study is obviously flawed. It's a piece of work," he said.

Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim said, "I don't need your study to tell me there's going to be some impact there."

Lundquist's testimony was overshadowed by Home Depot supporters, many of them newly hired managers or their spouses.

Johnny Harris, who said he was hired two months ago, spoke of the "aloha spirit" and culture that existed among Home Depot employees while he and others in Hawaii trained on the mainland.

Other employees and their spouses praised community programs initiated by the company.

The city is expected to use $15 million of the proceeds to go toward paying the purchase of the property from the Navy in 1994. The city originally expected to develop the site on its own.

The remaining $2.5 million is being used to help balance next year's $1.02 billion operating budget.

Councilman Steve Holmes was the sole dissenting vote.

The Council voted to sell the Pearl City Junction site to Home Depot in 1997. But the Council rejected giving Home Depot a zoning approval in February 1998 after opponents testified that the retailer won the rights to the site through special favors.

That nullified the sale, and last August, Home Depot emerged as the only bidder in a new sale. The $17.5 million bid was the same amount it had earlier offered.

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