Kailua-Kona sees new businesses, developments coming up

  • Kailua-Kona continues to be a hub for development with new businesses coming in and existing businesses moving or expanding into larger spaces. (Graphic by Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • New buildings in the BREW area of Pawai Place will house restaurants. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • New buildings in the BREW area of Pawai Place will house restaurants including Umekes. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • New buildings in the BREW area of Pawai Place will house restaurants. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • New buildings in the BREW area of Pawai Place will house restaurants. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Grading work continues for Niumalu Marketplace behind Lanihau Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Grading work continues for Niumalu Marketplace behind Lanihau Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Grading work continues for Niumalu Marketplace behind Lanihau Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The future home of KFC is under construction in the Kona Coast Shopping Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The future home of KFC is under construction in the Kona Coast Shopping Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The local area continues to be a hub of development and up-and-coming businesses, giving residents and visitors to the area increased opportunities to shop and enjoy themselves in Kailua-Kona.

At the beginning of August, energy systems company EnSync Inc. and its Hawaii subsidiary Holu Energy announced a 20-year power purchase agreement with Kona Brewing Co. for a solar-plus-battery storage system that is projected to generate enough energy to meet a quarter of the new brewery’s electricity needs.


The agreement covers a system consisting of a 336-kilowatt photovoltaic system on the facility’s roof along with a 122-kilowatt-hour battery system.

The announcement from EnSync says the energy the system generates will allow Kona Brewing Co. to produce as many as 6,875 cans of “sun-powered beer” an hour.

On the construction side, the company has made “a ton of progress” in grading at the site between Kuakini Highway and Pawai Place, said Eric Chang, senior Hawaii market manager at Kona Brewing Co. Chang said the company’s plans are currently in the permitting process and they anticipate laying the foundation next month, with brewhouse installation to come early next year. The company has also publicized a live cam of the construction site online.

“We hope to have construction complete and first test runs of production mid-year 2019,” Chang said, “which is our 25th anniversary!”

Local restaurants moving into new spaces

The new brewery isn’t the only excitement coming out of the Old Kona Industrial Area. Development also continues at BREW, a 6-acre site that Manini Holdings managing partner Mattson Davis said is envisioned as “Kona’s gathering place.”

BREW spans three lots around Pawai Place and is anchored by the Kona Brewing Co. brewery and pub at the road’s end. The site also includes the buildings currently referred to as the Brewery Block mauka and makai buildings and a 1.7-acre lot at BREW’s entrance.

Two local restaurants, Umekes and Sushi Shiono, have plans to move into new buildings on that 1.7-acre lot, with banners for both businesses already adorning the buildings’ exteriors. That lot also features space for outdoor seating, a restroom building and shade structure.

Sushi Shiono operations manager Yuka Kawakami said they don’t have a firm opening date yet for the new space, saying they are still waiting on permits.

Kawakami said the company will be moving out of its current space at Alii Sunset Plaza on Alii Drive and hopes to open in the new space early next year.

Umekes owner Nakoa Pabre said they’re hoping to open at their new space in February.

Pabre said they will still have two locations, saying they will be moving out of their current space on Kaiwi Street when they’re ready to open up at BREW.

The restaurant will continue to operate its original location on Hualalai Road.

Other local businesses are also looking at moving into BREW.

Ben Vanegtern, owner of Puna Chocolate Co. confirmed his company is opening a location at BREW as well, hopefully within the month of November, he said.

And Richard Ha, CEO of medical cannabis company Lau Ola, said they expect to open a dispensary in that area toward the end of the year.

Davis said they are also working with other potential businesses for the area as well.

And more than being only a site for businesses, Davis said BREW is also a place where people are encouraged to come together as a community. He pointed to events like Kona Town Night Market, which invite people to come out to the area and support local food vendors and crafters while also enjoying local art and talent.

Davis said the Kona Town Night Market slated for Nov. 10 will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the annual Ride the Breaks hip-hop cultural festival.

New marketplace off Henry Street

Work meanwhile continues at the site of the future Niumalu Marketplace, situated on 20 acres off Henry Street and makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Developers broke ground on the $95 million project in June.

The 14-building, 180,000-square-foot marketplace will be anchored by a Safeway, taking up residence in a 63,000-square-foot building. Safeway is currently located within Kona Crossroads Shopping Center, mauka of Walmart, inside a space measuring 46,130 square feet, according to a site overview of Kona Crossroads.

The new Safeway location is expected to open in the first quarter of 2020 with the whole center operating by the middle of that year.

Residents are also getting more opportunity to get fit and active in the community with a number of new fitness facilities coming to or expanding in the region.

Fitness Forever Hawaii in July expanded into the former Hilo Hattie storefront across Ololi Road and has plans to open gyms in Pahoa and Waikoloa. Planet Fitness, meanwhile, tentatively plans to open its Kailua-Kona gym in the old Borders bookstore space on Henry Street in October.

CrossFit Pohaku moved out of its old location off Alapa Street in the Old Kona Industrial Area into a 3,000-square-foot space next to The Club, just makai of the Lanihau Shopping Center and Kopiko Plaza.

The high intensity workout business has a symbiotic relationship with The Club, giving their members another outlet for fitness at special rates, and vice versa for Pohaku members.

“Coming over here has definitely increased our exposure as well as increasing our layout/square footage of training space,” Pohaku owner Andy Heubner said. “It does help to anchor, meaning we are right in between The Club and Fitness Forever, and making this the ‘fittest block on the west side!’”

To celebrate the opening, Pohaku will be hosting a grand opening party in the parking lot from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 31, featuring music and catering, featuring Ola Brew.

KFC meanwhile will be moving into a space in the Kona Coast Shopping Center on Palani Road, specifically the 2,067-square foot building formerly occupied by Wendy’s. KFC is currently located in an 1,822-square-foot space at Lanihau Center.

The Kailua Village Design Commission last September voted to forward a recommendation for approval of the project to the planning director.

A new building will also be coming up at Henry Street Landing, mauka of Kuakini Highway and along the south side of Henry Street.

Henry Street Landing, a little under 2.4 acres in size according to county records, currently hosts Starbucks, Jack in the Box and Aloha Island Mart.

In November 2017, a building permit was issued for a new 6,326-square-foot building with three bays along with related improvements, according to county records. The three bays are 3,000 square feet, 2,000 square feet and 1,326 square feet in size, according to a fact sheet about the anticipated structure.

About 1,120 feet north up Kuakini Highway and a little mauka, a two-story, eight-unit condominium — with lofts over the second floor — is in the works on the south side of Ololi Road and makai of Kopiko Plaza.

The Kailua Village Design Commission recommended the planning director approve a proposal for that project in 2016.

Meanwhile developments at other sites in town are still pending. Nancy Sakamoto, general manager of Kona Commons, said they are still working with local and national retailers regarding the space formerly occupied by Sports Authority, which closed in 2016.

Sakamoto said negotiations for that spot are still ongoing.

  1. Pest Outwest August 27, 2018 3:04 am

    So there’s some activity, but the biggest tenant (Safeway) is just moving downhill, leaving their space empty. Given the state of the former Sports Authority space on Makala, that could leave a gap like an empty tooth on the mauka side of the Walmart, and strand the other shops in that space, especially Dominos. The KFC is just moving into a failed Wendy’s.

    In the meantime, the Kmart and the Macy’s on the mauka end of Makala are isolated retail tombs, and we lost the gas station across from the Target. There remains acres and acres of empty land makai on Makala, no extension at all of the retail development there after many years.

    So, it’s not exactly what you’d call vibrant.

    1. Buds4All August 27, 2018 5:03 am

      POWest….some good points there. If the City were smart they would take the KMart and rework it to office business to hold all the Public Defenders that need to be close to the new courthouse? With the increase in crime it seems like the logical step. I love Macys and Would like to see some more activity around there. Perhaps a nice resturant or two and some quality retailers.

      1. Pest Outwest August 27, 2018 9:28 am

        Yes, your public defender is in aisle thirty nine, attorneys with online degrees.

        If nothing has been built up there after all these years, I doubt retailers and restaurants will start banging on the door of the leasing company now. It was a total disaster to build up there, they should have located those stores makai of the shops on Makala, join the crowd. As it is, the Target eats Kmart’s lunch.

        1. Buds4All August 27, 2018 10:57 am

          Perhaps a Macy’s could be built across the street from the BMW dealership? Seems about right.

      2. Joan Sheldon September 9, 2018 5:25 am

        Maybe Macy’s should move into the vacated Safeway space when it occurs … It would probably get more business when closer to town…..

        1. Buds4All September 9, 2018 6:37 am

          JSheldon good possibility. The Building Macy’s is in currently is an architectural match to other Macy’s stores though? Also There is a Jewelry store (locally owned) two doors down from Safeway and hate to add competition to them? Not sure if it is really a good fit. Perhaps the company which owns the KMart/Macy’s property should look at reconfiguration and access issues. That could be a great location.

          1. Joan Sheldon September 9, 2018 11:38 am

            Macys can re configure the facade. It would get more traffic if it were closer to downtown. Macys sells jewelry, but is not competition for a jeweler.

      3. Tanya Dye January 26, 2019 6:26 pm

        I heard that there is talk of a Whole Foods going in at the old Kmart building. It’s such a great view from up there it seems it could be a great opportunity for some businesses.

    2. laakoc August 27, 2018 2:28 pm

      I heard Old Navy was coming….possibly Kona Commons area as well as a BBW

      1. Pest Outwest August 27, 2018 3:02 pm

        A big beautiful woman?? There’s some big ones around here already, not so sure about the beautiful part.

        1. laakoc August 27, 2018 5:52 pm

          LMAO – Bath and Body Works – obviously you are not into aromatherapy. lol

          1. Buds4All January 27, 2019 11:34 pm

            I shower daily is that close?

  2. Big Mac August 27, 2018 3:56 am

    Hey, why don’t we put a homeless shelter right next to Kona Brewing Company so everyone feels safe taking an after dinner stroll back to their hotel.

    1. Big ideas August 27, 2018 6:04 am

      And a free needle exchange…liberals like those too…just ask SF, Seattle and Portland.

    2. KonaLife August 27, 2018 1:31 pm

      I don’t know if you’re joking, but there IS a homeless shelter there, right between the office supply store and the new Umeke’s. It’s abuts the pink area on the map in this story. Creates all sorts of interesting issues for those who try to run businesses in that area.

      1. Big Mac August 27, 2018 3:49 pm

        Right, it’s always nice to walk past angry zombies pushing shopping carts and freaks doing drug deals on your way back to the hotel. Our politicians thought this was a good idea.

  3. guest August 27, 2018 4:05 am

    I wonder what the parking plans are for BREW? Do not see parking ever mentioned in these plans. The Pawai Place area already has parking issues so adding more businesses and employees will add to that problem.

    1. Mattson Davis August 27, 2018 12:40 pm

      The new lot has over 90 stalls added and there’s street parking.

  4. Colin12345 August 27, 2018 4:19 pm

    Thank you, WHT, for the best local “what’s up” article in a long, long time! Please keep it up. Maybe something like this comprehensive review on a variety of topics, one every few months?

    1. KonaLife August 27, 2018 5:26 pm

      Agreed! Second that sentiment! Good job, WHT.

    2. Colin12345 August 28, 2018 10:03 pm

      For example: The new State Judiciary building (courthouse and associated offices) will be opening fairly soon (maybe 6 months?); maybe a month before, give a complete review of all the functions that will take place there, what’s going to happen to the old facilities (particularly the old hospital building), when and where the County prosecutor’s office will relocate somewhat nearer (not near enough in my opinion, at 3-4 road miles away from the new courthouse). Another one: what’s happening with the County’s plan to re-use the “treated” wastewater from the Kealakehe WWTP, particularly since the State DOT has elected not to do any plantings in the Qn. K. median (tragic choice). Another one: What is the role of the Kailua Village Design Commission. Another one: What’s happened to implementation of the Kona Community Development Plan (CDP) adopted 10 years ago in 09/08? Redevelopment Master Plan for Kailua Village, Open Space Network, etc? What do the CDP Action Committee members think about that? How do the KVDC, the Kailua Village Business Improvement District (KVBID), the CDP Action Committee fit together, or don’t they, or should they? Another one: What happened to the Kailua (Old A/Makae’o) Park Master Plan implementation? Why is nothing happening there after, what, 6-7 years of plan completions? Why does Pahoa Village get $350,000+ allotted County dollars (guess from which districts’ property tax collections to pay for the bonds moneys being used) for a new Pahoa town plan (especially given the 2014 lava flow as well as the 2018 near miss), but Kailua Village get $0 allotted? So, so much journalism waiting for a passionate leader.

      1. Joan Sheldon September 9, 2018 5:36 am

        Kona has rich investors to improve Kona town. Pahoa doesn’t. That’s the answer. Pahoa has just as much right to grow as Kona…. Hawaii thrives on the Aloha Spirit…. Helping others, helps ourselves become more loving and overcome one of the unfortunate human conditions called greed.

        1. Buds4All January 27, 2019 11:38 pm

          My parents taught me respect and hard work bring success not free hand outs. Aloha Spirit is fine but some geographical regions will not get the flow of people needed to equalize revenue and other businesses should not be forced to revenue share. It’s the way life and business works.

  5. Joan Sheldon September 9, 2018 5:22 am

    The Brew center looks interesting, but where is the parking? Walking up to it from Kuakini is not easy or the safest, so where is the parking behind the center going to be?

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