Erika Engle

Cycle City's new ecologically sound showroom is designed to use wind power.

Heavy metal thunder
crossing Nimitz’
automobile row

Cycle City Ltd. is revving up for a move after 40 years in the same spot.

By June the venerable purveyor of Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki and Buell motorcycles, Vespa scooters and Kawasaki industrial vehicles will have traveled all the way across the street, to where the old Kelly's Coffee Shop was located.

The company broke ground at Nimitz Highway and Puuloa Road Sept. 2 after a two-year planning process, according to Joe Nicolai, Cycle City president.

"The hole's been dug and we're well on our way," he said.

The building will provide 50,000 square feet of showroom, service and parts facilities versus Cycle City's current 10,000 square feet.

Nicolai, Vice President and General Manager John Winslett and Kober/Hanssen/Mitchell Architects plan a completely energy efficient building.

The confluence of such a building and the fuel-burning combustion-engine-bearing two-wheelers to be sold there is ironic, but "going from point A to point B, we still have to drive our fossil-fueled vehicles ," said Nicolai. The building represents "our green side," he added.

The new building will have wind power, photovoltaics and ambient air conditioning, which means, "We'll use the wind when we've got it," Winslett said.

It will also have a green roof covered with vegetation to "diminish the heat signature for the whole building. It's very cutting edge and will be the most energy efficient dealership we know of (anywhere)," he said.

It will be a dealership "that will stand with any dealership in the world, on equal footing with any of the superstores that exist anywhere," said Winslett.

Hawaii already owns a motorcycling distinction.

"There are more people on two wheels per capita, percentage wise, than any other state," Winslett said. He attributed the information to the Motorcycle Industry Council, which keeps track of statistics for manufacturers.

Competitor South Seas Cycles doesn't anticipate any change from the Cycle City move.

"We don't carry anything they sell," said Mark Ely, South Seas sales manager. South Seas' Waipahu dealership does carry some of the same makes, but the brands are separated by order of the manufacturers.

They don't want to flood a single area with product and have a dealer go out of business, Ely said.

Burgers and bikes

Cycle City won't be alone on its new plot. There will be burgers in addition to bikers.

Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers will have an on-site restaurant. The area needs more eateries, "but I'm not in the restaurant business and I'm a bad cook," Nicolai laughed.

"It's going to be an interesting pilot project."

Cycle City is leaving its Luke family-owned site on the makai side of Nimitz due to leasehold problems, Nicolai said.

"We need to be able to maximize our potential, and you simply can't do that on leasehold land."

"Manufacturers take a dim view of leasehold property," he said. "You cannot generate equity build-up." Manufacturers impose several requirements on dealers' facilities, but on leasehold land, "at some point you have to walk away and you can't pick up (your improvements) and take them with you," said Nicolai.

The Kelly's property was purchased from the Damon Estate for an undisclosed price.

Sentimentalists will appreciate that Nicolai wants to keep both the Cycle City sign and a couple so-called "wind signs" that were outside Kelly's.

"We're hoping to use those because they're historic." Kelly's was built in 1941, he said.

The Cycle City sign was fabricated in 1961 as the sign for Holiday Motors, once on the current site of Nicolai's truck center. Holiday "went broke and we wound up with the sign and changed the letters and it's been there since 1963," he said.

Other projects

Far from the shadow of the H-1 viaduct and automobile row, Nicolai's other large-scale building project has been delayed.

The new World Trade Center he envisions, and for which he owns naming rights, had been slated for completion late this year. It was planned as a 40-story commercial and retail building with a three-level automotive galleria as its foundation.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, raised additional security requirements "and we had to go back to square one," because the site is adjacent to Hawaiian Electric Co.

Plans now call for the first phase of construction to get under way in July of next year.

Nicolai doesn't seem to think it odd for the head of a car-dealing dynasty to also be a developer. He almost got the explanation out with a straight face. Almost.

"Well you know, my relatives helped build the Coliseum in Rome and it's held up pretty well. It sort of runs in the family."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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