Honolulu Club to be transformed into Hawaiian youth support center – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

GEORGE F. LEE / [email protected]
The former Honolulu Club building at 932 Ward Ave., shown Tuesday, had been purchased by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust, which now plans to renovate it into a Hawaiian youth program.
COURTESY QUEEN LILI‘UOKALANI TRUST
The former Honolulu Club building at 932 Ward Ave., had been purchased by the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust, which now plans to renovate it into a Hawaiian youth program, above.
A largely empty midrise building in Kakaako long anchored by a fitness and social club until last year is headed for new life benefiting the well- being of Native Hawaiian youth. Read more
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A largely empty midrise building in Kakaako long anchored by a fitness and social club until last year is headed for new life benefiting the well- being of Native Hawaiian youth.
The charitable Lili‘uokalani Trust has drawn up plans to transform the former Honolulu Club building into the biggest program complex in the 112-year history of the foundation established by Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Lili‘uokalani.
The project involves an estimated $65 million renovation to create a center serving up to 300 children and young adults at a time, and follows the trust’s purchase of the seven-story property at the corner of Ward Avenue and South King Street for $21 million in December.
Ellise Fujii, a spokeswoman for the trust, said the building, to be renamed Lili‘uokalani Center, will become the piko, or center, of youth development programs for the organization, which annually serves about 10,000 Hawaiian youth including young adults up to 26 years old through partnerships and 13 facilities on six islands.
“The Center will provide opportunities for youth to fulfill their greatest potential living healthy, joyful, and prosperous lives, and be positive contributors to their families, communities, and world,” she said in a statement. “It will be a safe space located in urban Hono­lulu where kamalii (children) are inspired to pursue their dreams.”
About 100 full- and part-time staff will need to be hired to operate the center with programs grounded in Hawaiian culture.
Areas of programming include performing arts, sports, entrepreneurship and technology.
For instance, a black-box theater, music and dance studios and visual arts production suites are slated for open two-story spaces where racquetball was once played on the fifth floor.
Some of the club’s other sports facilities, such as a rooftop basketball court, will be retained for program use.
The building’s ground-floor space, which was once home to a TGI Friday’s restaurant, is slated to become an innovation hub. Space for a cafe open to the public fronting the street also is planned for the building, which includes a parking garage.
“We’re hoping to energize the street corner by cultivating that King-and-Ward intersection,” Sherman Wong, the trust’s design and construction director, said during a recent presentation to the Ala Moana-Kakaako Neighborhood Board.
The corner is opposite Thomas Square park and Ewa of the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall. The site was once home to a Trader Vic’s restaurant, and in 1980 a company in the racquetball industry built the Honolulu Club after another developer’s plan for a 19-story medical complex fizzled.
Honolulu Club was established as sort of an urban country club with amenities that included 15 racquetball courts, paddle tennis courts, a fitness center, sports medicine clinic, pool, saunas, steam baths, massage room, dining area, cocktail lounge, dance floor, cosmetology salon, gift shop and even a travel agency.
Various operators managed the club over four decades, and the building has had several different owners that leased some space to office users.
The club closed 13 months ago, after spending much of 2020 shut down under government rules aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19, while many members canceled memberships.
The Lili‘uokalani Trust saw the building as an opportunity to help fulfill a current five-year strategic plan to break cycles of poverty for Hawaiians and provide services for the first time to beneficiaries from before they are born through age 26.
Several health and Hawaiian organizations have offered letters of support for the plan, including Hawaiian Community Assets and the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Fujii said the envisioned center is part of a strategy for the trust to reposition its programmatic properties closest to the most vulnerable Hawaiian children and shift from office settings to child-centered spaces.
This effort in recent years also has included real estate acquisitions in Kapolei and on Hawaii island, Maui and Molokai.
Funding for new facilities and programs comes from the trust’s endowment, a mix of real estate and securities that have a roughly $1 billion market value and generate income intended to fund trust operations in perpetuity.
Wong said the trust has produced designs for Lili‘uokalani Center and is getting ready to seek approvals from the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency that regulates development in Kakaako.
If permitting proceeds without hitches, construction could begin next summer and be finished in 2024.
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