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Will downtown Honolulu sacrifice its city charm for a more residential future?

FILE - Downtown Honolulu fronted by Aloha Tower Marketplace
Sophia McCullough
FILE - Downtown Honolulu fronted by Aloha Tower Marketplace

Downtown Honolulu is facing headwinds but commercial real estate experts say it still has competitive advantages.

There’s no denying that between the impact of COVID-19 and the sudden revolution of white-collar work away from offices, downtown Honolulu has been struggling.

According to research by our national newsroom at American City Business Journals, nearly 800 business mailing addresses disappeared from the downtown zip code from 2019 to 2022.

This week we learned Walmart will be the next big downtown tenant to close.

However, Pacific Business News' recent roundtable of five commercial real estate experts and investors found that they see strong advantages to downtown Honolulu — qualities that will see it through its current transformation.

One of them is Christine Camp, president and CEO of Avalon Group, which just acquired the Davies Pacific Center, with plans to convert about two-thirds of the building into apartments.

Camp said business tenants of the building tell her that while they do want to downsize their offices, they don’t want to leave downtown entirely.

That might be because of the synergy of downtown. Jamie Brown, president of Hawaii Commercial Real Estate, said downtown Honolulu still boasts half of Oʻahu's total office space, putting businesses within handshake distance of each other, and within steps of the political power center of the neighboring Capitol district.

This will keep downtown in demand even if it's transforming into a quieter, more residential future.

For more on this topic, read and listen to The Conversation's adaptive reuse series:

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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