Little Hawaii in
Vegas-style marketplace

The shopping center
is modeled on Waikiki's
International Marketplace

The Strip in Las Vegas will soon sport a shopping and dining center inspired by the International Market Place in Waikiki, featuring man-made imitations of Hawaii trees and an illuminated fountain the developers say will look like a volcano at night.

So far there are no Hawaii tenants booked for the 80,000-square-foot Hawaiian Marketplace, scheduled to open early next year, said Tom Bradley Jr., a spokesman for the developers.

But the center's tenants will have products reminiscent of the islands, such as coconut oil, fresh flower lei "and other products that are distinctly Hawaiian," he said.

Live Canary Island palms will be placed at the entrance but the rest of the landscaping will be artificial "because Las Vegas' desert environment is not conducive to growing lush tropical plants," according to Don Brinkerhoff, chief executive officer of Lifescapes International, the landscape designer working with the architects and developers.

There will be "prefabricated plants" that "mimic real flora indigenous to Hawaii, such as anthuriums, plumeria and rainbow trees," which Brinkerhoff described as eucalyptus trees with colorful trunks "like those on the road to Hana on Maui."

"Even there, the real trees don't look real," Brinkerhoff said in a news statement announcing the project.

The center's design, including grass shacks with artificial thatch roofs, was based on the International Market Place, said Brett Torino of the Torino Cos., co-developer of the $140 million center with New York-based Flag Luxury Properties.

"Like the International Market Place, our center's focal point will be an awe-inspiring, man-made banyan tree, resembling the century-old real tree at our counterpart in Waikiki Beach," Torino said.

Among the tropical touches are tiki torches and "custom light fixtures designed in the shape of pineapples, fearsome (yet whimsical) tiki statues" and the grass shack kiosks, he said in the press release.

There also will be a larger-than-life statue of King Kamehameha the Great, the developers said.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, which looks like a good candidate for space in such a center, said its plate-lunch business was not approached.

Co-owner Eddie Flores said L&L, which opened an outlet in the Henderson district of Las Vegas last month and has three more planned for the area, said he would not be interested in the location, anyway.

Flores favors residential areas, where he can get repeat customers, over walk-through tourist centers where customers might try the food on a whim.

Tenants who are booked for the Las Vegas property, which is 90 percent leased according to Bradley, include restaurants Hamada of Japan, Asian Buffet and Gandhi's, an Indian restaurant; a cigar shop, called the Stogie Shop; Hawaiian Tropics, a suntan lotion store; specialty clothing stores and a range of food-court outlets.

Designers involved in creating the theme, in addition to Lifescapes, include Technomedia Solutions, TSA Architects, Wet Design and McBride Co. No Hawaii architects or designers participated.

Ground was broken for construction on May 20. The site is near Harmon Avenue, within walking distance of the Bellagio and MGM Grand hotels.


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