Thursday, April 19, 2001

Site complications
stall Wal-Mart plan

Star-Bulletin Staff

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has delayed its plans for a combined Sam's Club/Wal-Mart store next door to Ala Moana Center while the company re-evaluates the project.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Hill did not know how long the delay might last, but said the retailer is still interested in the site.

Wal-Mart last week let a contract expire to purchase the 8.5 acres of land known as the Ke'eaumoku superblock, bordered by Sheridan, Rycroft, Makaloa and Ke'eaumoku streets.

The move allows the land's owner, the Wichman Family Trust, to talk with potential developers other than Wal-Mart. A representative of the trust could not be reached for comment. In the past, other developers have proposed condominium and entertainment projects for the site.

Issues of cost and design have prevented Wal-Mart from moving forward, said Jon-Eric Greene, senior vice president of local real estate firm Colliers Monroe Friedlander, which represents Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart agreed to buy the vacant superblock in January 2000. In August, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer unveiled plans to stack a 150,000-square-foot Sam's Club on top of a 150,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, with 1,500 parking stalls on six levels. The plan met with mixed reaction at a community hearing, where some residents said the development would turn the area into a traffic nightmare.

Construction was to begin by this spring and the stores were to open by 2002.

Wal-Mart continues to talk with the owner of the site, Hill said.

Hill declined to speculate whether the project might be scaled back. Greene noted the high value of the urban property makes it critical for Wal-Mart to run both stores.

However, putting one store on top of another raises complicated questions about how to flow traffic evenly between the stores, according to real estate observers.

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