Live-work-shop? The City wants to facilitate the construction of condos in shopping centers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Just a few years ago, Park Lane condominiums were built at Ala Moana Center. What if more condos and apartments popped up in Oahu’s malls?

It’s an idea gaining traction as many large malls suffer as more and more shoppers head online – a trend accelerated by the pandemic.

But this is not necessarily new.

“It’s been going on now for about 12 years across the United States. Started in Denver and going everywhere,” said real estate expert Stephany Sofos.

“It’s generating more housing and revitalizing retail for a lot of people.”

The city’s Planning and Permitting Department wants to make it easier for shopping malls and is proposing a change to the city’s land use ordinance.

“If you wanted to build on top of the Kahala Mall, a developer would just need to go get a building permit,” Katia Balassiano, of the city’s land use permits division, told City Council on Thursday.

The idea is to simplify and execute housing construction.

At present, there are no firm plans to build residential units above Kahala Mall – or at Pearlridge Center in Aiea or Windward Mall in Kaneohe. But if they wanted it under current law, they would have to apply to the city council.

“How would the owners of Kahala Mall – Bishop Estate, Kamehameha Schools – be allowed to build?” asked council chairman Tommy Waters.

“They would have to come up with a zoning change,” Balassiano replied, who added that they would have to apply for commercial mixed-use zoning, which would allow “commercial and residential ground floor above.”

“You can say we have 30,000 acres on Ewa Plain where you can still build, but the problem is you don’t have the infrastructure,” Sofos said. “You don’t have enough roads, you don’t have enough sewer lines.”

Sofos said these would already be in place for residential construction above a shopping mall.

“The developer could sell the condominiums, get the money to revitalize the mall, and it could be a win-win situation for everyone.”

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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