at old post office,
yet to break ground,
slated for next year
A $55.5 million renovationLegal problems dog Wall Street Cafe
for the Galleria awaits
permits and agreements
By Susan Kreifels
Stage One of The Galleria Shopping Center was scheduled for completion in late 1998, the sign by the downtown post office says. The second stage was to be done by the end of this year.
But the first shovel of dirt has yet to be overturned.
The U.S. Postal Service says holdups in permits and investors have held up closing an agreement between it and USPO Redevelopment Corp., which as early as 1996 hoped to start developing the historic building on Richard and King streets. Felice Broglio, Postal Service spokeswoman here, said developers now hope to close an agreement next month.
Developers have announced a series of startups and delays over the years. But Harold Spector, chairman of USPO Redevelopment, said yesterday that he had "wonderful, happy news forthcoming, nice news for the community." He would not give details.
The Postal Service plans to sell 300,000 square feet of the building, leaving the 55,000-square-foot post office counter area in front, for $11.5 million, plus $2.7 million to upgrade the post office. The company anticipates a $55.5 million renovation of the building into a galleria that would include more than 100 stores and four restaurants, all upscale.
Completion now has been pushed to next year, according to a sign outside USPO Redevelopment's office. The sign also lists designer boutiques that will open there. But at least two of the listed stores -- Chanel and Gianni Versace -- said they would not be locating at the Galleria.
Some retail experts have been skeptical since the beginning about the success of the development. Marty Plotnick, president of retail consulting firm Creative Resources Inc., said he has seen "nothing on the record to indicate there are any signed leases."
Other then a few hours around lunch time during the workweek, Plotnick said shopping and eating has shifted from downtown. And upscale prices won't sell, he said.
The lack of parking is the single greatest hindrance, Plotnick said. Initial plans called for a 350-stall underground parking garage, but those have been scrapped. Developers have said they planned to lease 300 parking spaces from nearby Harbor Square.
Experts also say the post office is too far away to attract enough tourists.
"It's a project that just cannot be," Plotnick said.
Developers initially said Bishop Museum would open a history display in the center. But the museum this week said that other than preliminary discussions when the development was first announced, there is no agreement to open there.
Puamana Crabbe, a designer of Hawaiian quilts and fashions, had also considered moving there, but now has decided against it for personal reasons as well as the slow economy.
Restaurants still listed on the sign include Bill Wyland's Living Seas Cafe & Micro Brewery, Stars Restaurant of San Francisco and the locally planned Wall Street Cafe. Wall Street Cafe developers and Wyland couldn't be reached for comment, and Stars Restaurant did not return a call.
Legal problemsBy Susan Kreifels
follow Wall Street Cafe
The Wall Street Cafe had originally planned to open at the site of the McDonald's Restaurant near Queen and Richards streets when state investigators stopped it from soliciting investors.
Now the cafe says it's headed for the Galleria Shopping Center, which is yet to be developed.
The Securities Enforcement Branch at the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs issued a preliminary cease-and-desist order against the Wall Street Cafe in 1997. The order prohibited cafe developers from making any offers, sales or solicitation of securities, after a preliminary investigation revealed that securities were not registered with the state and that possible misrepresentations had been made to potential investors.
Patricia Moy of the Securities Enforcement Branch said the cafe defaulted on an order to pay back investors and pay a state fine.
Moy's office is not investigating the cafe's Galleria plans, and she said the office has no authority to stop the cafe from soliciting investors for a new project. The next step would be for original investors to file a criminal complaint.
Wall Street Cafe developers Bill Yee and Walter Sanford could not be reached.
Norman Ledgerwood, a former Hawaii resident now living in Richmond, Va., invested $5,000 in the original Wall Street Cafe and never got any of his investment returned. Ledgerwood is upset that developers are now trying to set up elsewhere.
"The government should not allow this to happen," Ledgerwood said. "It may not help initial investors, but it should keep other investors from making the same mistake."