HONOLULU (KHON2) — There are new plans for an old landmark in Waikiki, the former Kyo-Ya restaurant closed over 15 years ago. Attempts to redevelop the site have previously failed but a group of developers are trying to get community buy-in to build a cultural entertainment center.
The Kyo-Ya restaurant served its last dish back in 2007.
Waikiki resident Clayton Ishimoto said he has memories of dining out there. He said, “Back in the late 90s and early 2000s we’d come here for dinner at least once every two weeks.”
The property was bought by the Kobayashi Group last year. The building itself is locked up and sitting empty, while the parking structure adjacent to the property serves as a parking lot for a shared ride service.
Alana Kobayashi Pakkala is a partner with the Kobayashi Group, and she said they plans for the property.
They are proposing to build a low-rise and open-air cultural entertainment venue that would fit about 685 people. The venue would also offer food and beverage as well as retail space.
“Just to be able to have an outdoor purpose-built venue that’s really focused on creating an amazing experience in a beautiful environment,” Kobayashi Pakkala said. “I mean we’re going to be making a large commitment and investment in making this a world-class entertainment venue.”
The venue would bring on 50 full-time employees, and they are consulting with cultural practitioners for the arts and entertainment aspects.
The Waikiki Neighborhood Board provided comments after reviewing the environmental assessment report. The board’s vice chair Jeff Merz said they are asking the developers to keep noise at a minimum during construction and consider noise when the entertainment venue begins operating among other concerns.
Merz said, “Lighting could be very disruptive to a neighborhood so we want to avoid that we encourage them to use downward facing lighting, modern lighting with shields.”
Kobayashi Pakkala said they are consulting with neighboring businesses and residents to address their concerns. She said, “We are committed to making sure that we’re good neighbors and that the lighting and the show are not a detraction.”
The construction for the entertainment venue would be faster than other projects, Kobayashi Pakkala said they are planning on completing the build-out by the summer of 2025.
Ishimoto said he has been concerned about some of the headlines coming out of Waikiki regarding acts of crime. He said adding more life to that section of Kalakaua Avenue could help reduce some of the unwanted activity.
Ishimoto said, “Most of the headlines in Waikiki have been violence and stuff like that so hopefully by bringing a positive energy you know it would take over that negative stuff that’s been going on.”
The environmental assessment report is expected to be wrapped up by next month and the developers will then begin the Waikiki Special District Permit process.