The Maui News - Plans are under way to renovate the Lahaina Center into Maui's first outlet shopping center by next summer. The 10 existing buildings at 900 Front St. will be remodeled starting in November to turn the 11-acre site into The Outlets of Maui.
With a new look and national retail brands, the project's developers hope to turn around the center's historically low occupancy rate and attract more shoppers to that end of Front Street.
The center, which was built in 1989, will maintain a "Lahaina-esque" feel, said Dan Jordan, principal of Honolulu Builders, the general contractor for the project. "We don't want to change the character of the historically sensitive area," he said.
"We're making the buildings a little more architecturally interesting with different colors, more glass and greening up the interior to make it more inviting," said Dan Shiraki, project superintendent for Honolulu Builders, noting that the existing buildings are "all rubber-stamped and monotone."
Jordan said the center is currently only 30 to 40 percent leased.
He said the existing center's anchor tenants, Hard Rock Cafe, Ruth's Chris Steak House and Hilo Hattie, will remain at the center, as well as the Warren and Annabelle's Magic Show venue. It's unclear when the other tenants will vacate.
The Florida-based agent handling leasing for the outlet center declined to discuss possible tenants.
Shiraki believes the outlet center will be "similar to Waikele in its tenant mix," referring to the Waikele Premium Outlets in West O'ahu, currently Hawai'i's only outlet mall. Tenants there include Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Coach, Guess, Levi, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th.
Shiraki said outlet stores are especially attractive to shoppers now, given the economic downturn.
The remodeling plan for The Outlets of Maui was recently approved by the Maui Planning Department. Shiraki said the Lahaina Restoration Foundation was consulted on the project since it's located in a historic district, as defined by county ordinance.
He said the project will employ approximately 50 workers, including subcontractors, for about 10 months.
The outlet project is being funded by The Outlets of Maui LLC, a group of local and Mainland investors, which has signed a long-term land lease for the center.
Another outlet shopping center is in the works in South Maui by Eclipse Development Group of California. But the timeline for opening the Kihei centers is unclear because the landowners face an ongoing legal challenge before the state Land Use Commission brought by opponents of the developments.