The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Waikiki's International Market Place


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The Way Forward

The International Market Place as it appears today.
A rendering of the high-end retail, dining and entertainment complex that's planned to replace it.

Photo: Dallas Nagata White

Photo: Courtesy WCIT Architecture

Peter Apo has an unusually multidimensional perspective on the International Market Place.

As a former state representative, he was there on the night of the merchant uprising.

As a young Hawaiian musician who played in Waikiki a lot during the 1960s and 1970s, he has fond memories of hanging out at Duke Kahanamoku’s after his own gigs. “Parking was not a problem. The drinking age was 18. If you were a guy, that’s where you went. If you were a girl, that’s where you went. It was before AIDS. It was the perfect party storm,” he says.

As a cultural consultant for the developer, Apo has been working to ensure that a “Hawaiian sense of place” will infuse the common areas of the new International Market Place. “No matter where you go, there will be something Hawaiian you look at,” he says.

Among many other things, this means the story of Queen Emma, and her relationship to the property, will be told. “I think you’re going to see exhibitry and certain kinds of expression that celebrate Queen Emma as fundamental to the place,” he says. “It’s going to be a kind of back-to-the-future thing.”

Importantly, the new International Market Place will have a lot more parking—around 750 stalls on a five-level parking structure along Kuhio Avenue. The lowest level of the parking structure will begin on the top level of the mall. When people arrive by car, they’ll step out into the restaurant and entertainment area built around the top of the banyan tree.

The design is meant to draw more Honolulu residents to the mall’s dining and entertainment area. If it works, if local people return to a world-class attraction in the heart of Waikiki, the new International Market Place will find its way back to the future in that way, too.

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