The New International Marketplace

The sign in front of the International Market Place in Waikiki
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What can we expect from the newly-remodeled International Marketplace, set to be completed in 2016?

Apparently, a whole lot. The future site, according to city officials, will consist of 75 retail locations and seven restaurants. A Saks Fifth Avenue will be located at the ground floor of the complex and serve as the overall foundation. As for the parking situation, there will be 700 additional parking stalls in a parking garage that will also be built on the Kuhio Street side of the marketplace.

In my opinion, the development is going to need a lot more stalls than that. Waikiki already has a major issue with parking, so adding more stores and restaurants at the marketplace will only increase the amount of vehicular and foot traffic going through this part of Oahu. I guess the same could be said for any new development on an island; however, Waikiki is particularly short on space, as is. If adding more than the projected 700 stalls is not an option, then I would hope a shuttle system of some sort is implemented for shoppers.

In addition to the parking situation at the marketplace, many have also wondered about the historic banyan trees that sat in the middle of the previous marketplace for decades. What will happen to it? During a groundbreaking ceremony this week, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell assured everyone that the iconic banyan trees will be preserved! Definitely good news, but having to build around a group of trees should make things pretty interesting for the team of developers. Probably not a first for an island development, but definitely a challenge that I hope they are ready to take on.

Developers say that when it comes to the architecture of the marketplace, they will keep Hawaii in mind. I had a chance to see mock-up drawings of the future marketplace, and from what I gathered, it will look similar to what the Saratoga development looks like today. A tall, multi-level structure with high-end shops encased behind a shield of sleek glass walls; the occasional row of coconut trees sprinkled throughout, but still, so, so fancy for the island life. Too fancy, in my opinion.

As a kid I remember walking through the International Marketplace in our swimsuits, still covered in saltwater and sand and wrapped up in a dampened towel; a super laid-back place that welcomed the casual beach-goer who trotted through their string of shops. But with the new development, I fear that will not be the case. Forget showing up to the marketplace directly from the beach; proper footwear and clothing will most likely be required to even step foot in one of those stores. And although the familiar faces of shopkeepers from the past have disappeared, my hope is that the laid-back, island vibe that once characterized the marketplace of old will still remain.