Prince Kuhio Plaza

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Prince Kūhiō Plaza
Location Hilo, Hawaii
Coordinates 19°41′50″N 155°3′48″W / 19.69722°N 155.06333°W / 19.69722; -155.06333Coordinates: 19°41′50″N 155°3′48″W / 19.69722°N 155.06333°W / 19.69722; -155.06333[1]
Address 111 East Puainako Street
Opening date 1985[2]
No. of anchor tenants 3
Total retail floor area 510,381 square feet (47,415.9 m2)[3]
No. of floors 1

Prince Kūhiō Plaza is a single-level regional shopping center in Hilo, Hawaii. It is the largest enclosed mall on the Island of Hawaii.

The Plaza consists of a central mall building and a number of outlying buildings. The main building has four anchor tenant spaces. These are occupied by Sears, Macy's and Sports Authority. Other major tenants include Prince Kūhiō Stadium Cinemas, a nine screen movie theatre and Long's Drugs, which is located in an outlying building.[4] The mall, along with three adjacent big-box retail centers, forms the core retail area of Hilo and its surrounding communities.

Prince Kūhiō Plaza is owned and operated by General Growth Properties.[5] It is named for Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole (1871–1922) who served as Congressional Delegate from 1903 to 1922.[6]


Early planning and development[edit]

Prince Kūhiō Plaza was first conceived in the early 1970s in response to the lack of adequate retail space in Hilo.[7] Prior to its development, mall-based retail activity was concentrated in the Kaikoʻo Mall, with 190,000 square feet (18,000 m2) of leasable space, and the smaller Hilo Shopping Centre, with 78,000 square feet (7,200 m2) of space. Together, these two malls provided a total of 268,000 square feet (24,900 m2) while serving a trade area population (encompassing Hāmākua, Hilo, Puna and Kaʻū) of an estimated 60,700 persons as of July 1, 1978. In contrast, the island of Maui, with an estimated total population of 52,900 people as of July 1, 1978, boasted three shopping centres, all in Kahului, with a total of 530,000 square feet (49,000 m2). Thus Maui possessed more than twice as much retail space on a per capita basis than East Hawaiʻi.

Though the need for more retail space in Hilo was clear, a solution was not immediately apparent. Kaikoʻo Mall, which opened in July 1970 and became fully occupied by the following year, proved far too small to accommodate the growing number of retailers interested in operating in Hilo. Between 1973 and 1974, various retailers had collectively requested over 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) of space in the 190,000-square-foot (18,000 m2) shopping centre. As a result of this burgeoning demand, the Mall’s management in early 1974 requested a study concerning the practicality of expanding Kaikoʻo Mall but the report concluded that because any such expansion would require building additional levels rather than expanding outwards, expansion was deemed economically unfeasible.[8]

Attention then turned toward building an entirely new shopping centre at an alternative location.[9] Developers, however, were unable to find a suitable site until September 1977, when the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands offered to lease 39 acres (160,000 m2) of land located at the intersection of Pūʻāinakō Street and Kanoelehua Avenue (part of the Hawaii Belt Road). Orchid Isle Group, the sole bidder for the property, signed a 53-year lease with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on October 28, 1977.[10]

Prince Kūhiō Plaza was envisioned as a fully enclosed regional shopping centre. Plans called for three anchor spaces of 55,000 to 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) each, plus an additional 240,000 square feet (22,000 m2) of retail space for a total of 420,000 square feet (39,000 m2) of leasable area. Parking would be provided for 2,150 vehicles.[11]

Reaction to the proposed shopping centre was generally positive as many in the Hilo community voiced their dissatisfaction with the selection of goods and services then available. A study conducted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and published in September 1979, showed that nearly three-quarters of Hilo residents traveled to Oʻahu for shopping at least once per year and that nearly 55% visited the district of Kona to shop at least once per year.[12] However, Hawaii County Mayor Herbert Matayoshi opposed the development of the mall, fearing a negative impact on businesses in downtown Hilo.[13] Despite the support of various business and trade associations,[14] as well as the public at large, as evidenced by the collection of more than 9,000 signatures in support of the proposed development during an informal petition drive in the fall of 1978,[15] developers were unable to get final approval to begin construction until October 1979, two years after the lease agreement between Orchid Isle Group and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands had been signed. Not only was this lengthy delay partly responsible for pushing back the Prince Kūhiō Plaza’s expected opening date from Fall 1981 to 1985, it also increased the project’s overall price tag by at least 50 percent.[16]

Growth, change and challenges[edit]

Since its 1985 opening, Prince Kūhiō Plaza has undergone a modest amount of expansion but it has also experienced periods of high profile long-term vacancies. In the mid-1990s, Sears built an addition to its store to create space for hardware and lawn and garden products. Around the same time, J.C. Penney announced plans to relocate its Hilo store from the aging Kaikoʻo Mall to Prince Kūhiō Plaza. A fourth anchor space totalling just under 62,000 square feet (5,800 m2) was built to accommodate the new store. In order to compensate for the loss of parking spaces caused by the expansion of Sears and the construction of J.C. Penney, a new parking lot was created across Ohuohu Street, bringing the total number of spaces to 2,831.

Another major redevelopment occurred in 1999 when the shopping centre’s two-screen theatre was renovated and enlarged to feature nine screens with stadium style seating. To make room for the expanded theatre, several stores in the theatre's vicinity had their spaces requisitioned. Originally set to be renamed the Prince Kuhio Megaplex Cinemas, the theatre reopened in 2000 as the Prince Kūhiō Stadium Cinemas.

In the midst of this expansion, however, market conditions would continually challenge the mall’s tenants, leading many to close. Even the mall's anchor stores were not immune to this fate. Years of loses stemming from competition from discounters and big box retailers led to the shuttering of all 400 Woolworth stores nationwide, including the company’s Hilo location in 1997. Liberty House, another anchor store, struggled through financial difficulties until June 2001, when the department store chain announced its acquisition by Federated Department Stores, Inc. All Liberty House stores were subsequently converted into Macy’s department stores. Sixteen months later, in October 2002, came the news that JCPenney was pulling out of the Hawai'i market by closing all of its remaining stores state-wide.[17] Fortunately, on the heels of this announcement came the news in February 2003 that Macy’s would expand into the recently vacated J.C. Penney space, turning it into their new Men’s, Children’s and Home store while featuring an expanded selection of women’s clothing and accessories in their original location.

However, one anchor spot, the 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) of space vacated by Woolworth remained empty for the better part of 15 years before a replacement tenant was found. Sports Authority opened its second location on Hawaii at Prince Kūhiō Plaza in August 2012.

In 2011, Safeway Inc moved its Hilo store from the Plaza to a much larger space in the newly built Maka'ala Center. The grocery chain's old location, totalling 39,385 square feet, remains vacant.

In 2012 Zippy's restaurants announced plans to open their second neighbor island location in Hilo, at the Prince Kuhio Plaza food court (adjacent Sports Authority), in four spaces formerly occupied by Arby's, Blaz'n Steaks, Chen's Chinese Restaurant and Post Net. The four spaces would be consolidated to make way for the Zippy's and Napoleon's Bakery combo restaurant.


  • Sears (74,070 sq ft / 6,881 m²)
  • Macy's Men's, Children's, Home (61,873 sq ft / 5,748 m²)
  • Macy's Women's (50,477 sq ft / 4,689 m²)
  • Sports Authority (50,000 sq ft / 4,645 m²)
  • Longs Drugs (27,360 sq ft / 2,542 m²)
  • Prince Kūhiō Stadium Cinemas (20,553 sq ft / 1,909 m²)
  • Pier 1 Imports (14,000 sq ft) coming 2015

Former Retailers[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Prince Kuhio Plaza Shopping Center
  2. ^ Hillinger, Charles (1985-09-01). "Way of the West-Hawaiian Style Homesteading Gives Islanders Chance to Improve Lives". Los Angeles Times. p. 6. At Hilo the new 39-acre (160,000 m2) Prince Kuhio Plaza, second-largest shopping center in the state, is on HHL land. Kuhio Plaza was dedicated last March... 
  3. ^ Ishikawa, Lisa; Taketa, Mari (1992-11-01). "Down but not out". Hawaii Business. In Hilo, at the 510,381-square-foot (47,415.9 m2) Prince Kuhio Plaza, general manager Kimra Perkins reports sales... 
  4. ^ "Wallace Theaters acquires Consolidated in Hilo". Pacific Business News. 1998-04-28. 
  5. ^ "Executives see more business ownership changes to come". Pacific Business News. 2005-02-06. 
  6. ^ Prince Kuhio Plaza at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  7. ^ The Prince Kūhiō Plaza Environmental Impact Statement, June 1980, prepared for Orchid Isle Group by the Hilo firm of Walt Southward: Public Relations, p. 11
  8. ^ EIS, p. 11
  9. ^ EIS, pp. 82–85.
  10. ^ EIS, pp. 12, 27
  11. ^ EIS, p. 4
  12. ^ EIS, p. 33
  13. ^ "Herbert Matayoshi 1928–2011: Former mayor of Hawaii County 'wasn't afraid of controversy'". Honolulu Star Advertiser. 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-07-31. 
  14. ^ EIS, p. 5-6
  15. ^ EIS, p. 101
  16. ^ EIS, p. 81
  17. ^ Gomes, Andrew (2002-10-02). J.C. Penney to close three stores. The Honolulu Advertiser

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