Dole Cannery’s Lifesaver

Castle & Cooke is counting on Costco to save the Dole Cannery.

September, 2001

Still savoring the news announced in late June that Costco had purchased 12 acres at Dole Cannery’s Iwilei site and planned to open a wholesale superstore by the second quarter of 2002, Castle & Cooke Properties executives are, at last, in a decidedly upbeat mood about their old pineapple processing plant turned retail and office mall. With the arrival of the big new anchor and sure-fire crowd-enticer close to the heart of the city, they now clearly see the future: an urban retail center with a unique mix of big box stores, offices and an entertainment complex.

“The one thing that Costco is going to do for us is draw people,” says Robert H. Urquhart, vice president of Castle & Cooke’s Iwilei commercial division. “And it’s an announcement that has also drawn a lot of interest from people who haven’t been looking at this area. Now they’re saying, hey, wait a minute. We have Home Depot; we have Costco and Signature’s 18 theaters. Let’s not call it a mini power center just yet, but we’ve certainly had a lot of calls since the Costco announcement.”

This is welcome news for the beleaguered development. It has, since its opening as an outlet mall in 1996, struggled to find tenants, shoppers and, especially, the ultimate buzz that can make or break a large retail near-downtown complex. It also signals a new phase in what Castle & Cooke executives call “an orderly transition” from the original plan that obviously was not working to a satisfying mix of businesses that provide a center of opportunity for some of the original smaller retailers who, missing the high traffic of other mall locations, have stayed the course through rocky times.

Significantly, while market forces have clearly indicated that a 200,000-square-foot retail center in Iwilei isn’t going to work, Urquhart hastens to declare that Dole Cannery is not giving up on retail. Closely scrutinizing a map of the Castle & Cooke properties at Iwilei, he points out that 25,000 square feet situated next to Signature’s theaters are earmarked for retail outlet development. Additionally, the Food Court in the Galleria, a fixture since the Cannery’s opening, will be moving soon from its second floor location to the first floor, providing theatergoers easier access — just across the street — to their choice of fast-food restaurants.While the pending arrival of Costco is not seen as a panacea for all of the location’s tribulations, it certainly is a development that signals major change —and the kind of optimism that had been missing at Dole Cannery for many of its retail tenants. “Obviously, we’re not trying to be another Ward Warehouse or Ala Moana or Pearlridge,” Urquhart says, “but the potential is now here for a really unique product mix.” He sees Dole Cannery as a future draw for niche and specialty retail outlets, like Strawberry Connection, the retail warehouse that opened in mid-July, and the kind of stores that tended to locate around Costco at its Salt Lake location — carpets, furniture, what Castle & Cooke refers to as “small big boxes.”

Thus, what Urquhart anticipates in the long run is the theater building and parking garage on the south side of Iwilei Road, retail and food outlets on the ground floor of the complex across from the theater, leading through the Galleria shops in a northeast direction to another parking area, and easy access to the Home Depot and Costco locations.

Meanwhile, undaunted by the disappointing past, Urquhart and his boss, Harry A. Saunders III, president of Castle & Cooke’s Oahu residential and commercial operations, are once again looking at the big picture possibilities. They’re hoping to get some sit-down restaurants to service what they think will be a new and interested downtown shopping audience. They’re seeking another big anchor store to match Costco and Home Depot. They envision a lot of commute people, heading home from work, stopping off at these outlets to shop. And they can see a different crowd of weekend people, heading on Saturdays to Dole Cannery instead of to Hawaii Kai.

Says Urquhart, with optimism and no little hint of excitement: “I now think we’re a unique package here. This is a good location for a lot of things. Besides the ample parking, it’s close to downtown. It’s close to the government districts, it’s close to the harbor, it’s close to the airport, and it’s relatively close to Waikiki. You can get to and from here quickly. Which means, with the right kind of product and service, it’s going to be a good spot to operate from.”


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Tom Chapman