HONOLULU (KHON2) — A plan to bring hundreds of residential apartments to Downtown Honolulu by converting office space into condos has led to a push to change the City’s housing code in order to move along the project. 

Turning empty office spaces into someone’s home is a concept that is taking off around the country and Downtown Honolulu is no exception.

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The Avalon Group CEO Christine Camp said they acquired the Davies Pacific Center earlier this year. The more than 20-story tall building is currently sitting about a third empty, they plan on keeping commercial space but at least 75% of the building will be converted to condos. 

It is not a simple task. 

“A lot of vacancies are coming up and I think this is the right time for us to discuss what adaptive reuse is,” Camp said.

Camp further explained that “Every unit will have a bathroom and a kitchen right at a minimum, which means all of these existing ceilings and floors will have to be cored to ensure that we have plumbing that goes all the way through the floors, so it’s very challenging.”

According to Camp, they plan on building out 25 to 26 units per floor. 

Camp is supporting a City Bill that would amend Honolulu’s housing code, the issues in question are natural light and ventilation of the units. Currently, windows that open are required in living spaces, including bedrooms.

Honolulu Councilmember Tyler Dos Santos-Tam introduced a bill that would amend the housing code. He said this change could help attract more development in downtown as well as tackle the lack of housing inventory on the island. 

“With these big office buildings, sometimes it’s hard to have windows with a certain configuration, ” Dos Santos-Tam said. “And so we’re saying if it follows the international building code, which of course these buildings did, we should allow them to be converted into a residential unit.”

Camp said they plan on installing mechanical ventilation in spaces without a window. 

“We size it in a way that allows us to have natural windows for the unit but not necessarily all the bedrooms, we are going to look at the aspect but it gives us that flexibility,” said Camp.

That flexibility would allow for smaller units and keep prices for the condo between $550,000 and $650,000. 

The Hawaii Commercial Real Estate President Jamie Brown said there is space to build these types of projects downtown. The multi-tenant office building vacancy rate downtown is inching near 14%. 

Brown said, “The total vacancy across the 23 buildings downtown would add up to basically two full office buildings.”

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The Avalon Group is working to put the units on the market by the end of the year.