From Waikiki parking lot to boutique hotel

·3 min read

Jun. 11—A new six-story boutique hotel or apartment building is in the works in Waikiki, where a small commercial parking lot has stood for over 20 years.

Waikiki Bazaar Inc. is proposing to develop Hale Lau 'ula, a 16-unit, 28-bed boutique hotel or an eight-unit apartment building at 2154 Lauula St. Preliminary details of the project were published in a draft environmental assessment June 8 in the environmental notice, . Comments on the draft are due by July 8.

The draft description says the first level of the project would include a lobby, vehicle parking stalls, bicycle racks, loading spaces and landscaping. Level 2 would include a prep kitchen, indoor and outdoor seating, a lounge area, mailboxes, front desk, unisex bathroom, vending machines, office, laundry room, janitor's closet, storage, mechanical room, two decks and a landscaped recreation area. The third to sixth floors would each have four units for a total of 16 units if the property is developed as a boutique hotel. If the property is developed as apartments, it would be two units per floor for a total of eight units.

Waikiki Bazaar said in a statement that the building would feature a Hawaiiana motif and would improve the site while continuing the recent development in the area.

The project is being developed in a resort mixed-use precinct of Waikiki, where the height limit is 280 feet. The project is bordered by Lauula Street, the Ritz-Carlton, the Aqua Oasis Hotel and a municipal sewage pump station and parking lot.

Keith Kurahashi, a consultant with R.M. Towill Corp., said, "It's a really small lot (5, 335 square feet ), so they are limited on what they are doing. It has real minimal impact. We appeared before the Waikiki Neighborhood Board a year or so ago, and they supported it."

The project, which is expected to cost $7 million, was presented to the Waikiki Neighborhood Board on Jan. 14, 2020, as a potential new student housing project and was supported by the board.

Jeff Merz, a Waikiki Neighborhood Board member who is an urban planner, said he will review the draft and provide comments on behalf of the board.

"Generally, we are supportive of infill projects that don't require variances, " Merz said. "We tend to give projects that require variances more scrutiny."

Waikiki Bazaar said it hasn't requested any variances or exemptions.

Kurahashi said an amendment to the land-use ordinance in December removed some of Waikiki's parking requirements and created a pathway for the project to proceed.

"They could have moved forward with a hotel before the land-use change, but they couldn't have moved forward with an apartment, which is something that they wanted to keep as an option, " he said.

Kurahashi said the project "would better utilize the property and bring it up to its highest and best use."

Kurahashi said replacing the 13-stall parking lot with a boutique hotel or apartment would create jobs and contribute more to the city's tax base by increasing the property taxes, which are based on land value and improvements on the land.

Waikiki Bazaar said the use of the property as a hotel would result in higher general excise taxes, transient accommodations taxes and income taxes.

Kurahashi said Waikiki Bazaar also will submit a conditional use permit and a major Waikiki special district permit. He said a final environmental assessment will be prepared after draft comments come back.

According to the draft environmental assessment, construction is expected to take about 16 months.

Kurahashi said his client Waikiki Bazaar is still considering whether the project will be a boutique hotel or apartment building. He said it expects to decide on a use by the time it files its Waikiki special district permit, but either way, Kurahashi said, the impacts are "very minimal."

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