International Market Place Renovation Planned

Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2005.

International Market Place
John Fischer

This renovation never took place, but a larger, more expensive renovation appears to be on schedule to break ground sometime in 2013. We'll keep you advised.

Whenever I visit Oahu, one of the places where I make a point to visit is the International Market Place at 2330 Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. For me, it's never been a place that's very attractive. In fact, in many areas it's kinda seedy. It certainly has never been easy to navigate through its many aisles and back alleys. I often walk through it and don't buy a thing. But, then again, there's that extra suitcase I found there for $25 and those great t-shirts and, oh yes, my wife's favorite Hawaiian dress and those hard to find music CDs...

The land beneath the Market Place has a long history. Few know that it sits on land once owned by Hawaii's Queen Emma Kaleleonalani, wife of King Kamehameha IV. Even today, the land is owned by the Queen Emma Foundation, and that's key to its future.

It's history as a market place began on January 16, 1955 when entrepreneur Donn "Don the Beachcomber" Beach announced that a new "Waikiki village" was to be created. The new village was to be called "The International Market Place."

As told on the Market Place's website, "The Market Place was originally designed to encompass 14 acres of Queen Emma Estate lands between the Waikiki Theater and the just-completed Princess Ka'iulani Hotel, extending from Kalakaua Avenue halfway to Kuhio Avenue. Intended to meet the visitors expectations of Waikiki being a casual, tropical village with the arts, crafts, entertainment and foods of Hawai'i's truly diverse people, the International Market Place reflected the early awareness that cultural tourism required a creative vision.

Villages of various ethnic groups including Hawaiian, South Sea Islander, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Filipino were to be built. Original plans called for the construction of a small hotel with a tropical design on the land presently occupied by Kuhio Mall - if the need for more rooms in Waikiki ever made the venture financially viable. The premier restaurant in the marketplace was to be Don the Beachcombers."

For many visitors to Waikiki the International Market Place is one of the places that they most remember. For repeat visitors, it's one of the few places in Waikiki that always seems to be there and, for the most part, always looks the same.

All things, however, seem destined to change, especially in an area such as Waikiki where the value of prime real estate is high, and where property owners are always looking to maximize the returns on their investment.

On September 10, 2003, the Queen Emma Foundation announced plans for a complete $100-150 million renovation of the area of the current International Market Place. Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2005 and be completed sometime in 2007. This will allow current vendors time to relocate their businesses. Some, but not all, of the vendors may be invited to return to the new development.

Plans for the renovation call for a low-rise complex which will include retail establishments, an entertainment amphitheater, a hula mound, a kupuna story hearth, and a retention of many of the existing heritage trees including the world famous banyon tree located in the Market Place.

The area will also include an ethnic food pavilion, free-standing restaurants and outdoor carts and kiosks. In addition much of the look that the land had in the days of Queen Emma will be recreated, including a stream which used to run through the property.

The current International Market Place depends on pedestrian traffic and suffers from the lack of parking in Waikiki. The new complex will have over 300 parking spaces, many of which will be located underground.

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