Awhile back, I had written a post that was never published on how much Waikiki had changed since I was a kid.
It was aimed to run after the $115 million renovation to the Royal Hawaiian Center, which, in June 2008, transformed the more than 310,000-square-foot shopping and dining complex along Kalakaua Avenue. It’s got a decidedly Mainland feel, with huge storefronts for such retailers like Apple, Bebe, Tourneau and Bvlgari, just to name a few.
I was conflicted at the time: the streets were cleaner, the landscape more inviting. But it didn’t feel like the Waikiki I remembered growing up. And I couldn’t see the ocean.
But it’s Waikiki. It’s a playground for visitors to Oahu, with rows of hotels, restaurants and shops lining Kalakaua Avenue on both sides. It’s supposed to be tourist-friendly, accessible and self-contained. I get it.
But the North Shore?
The changes out there have been even harder to accept, with Haleiwa looking more like how Disney would interpret Hawaii for Disney World. You can’t rebuild old plantation-style structures and turn-of-the-century buildings. It just doesn’t feel sincere or authentic.
So when I heard about Kamehamehama Schools’ $12.6 million plan to redevelop four acres in this historic town, I didn’t know how to feel, exactly.
The plan calls for demolishing four of nine existing buildings — including the one that houses Aoki’s Shave Ice — and restoring two. The famous (particularly with visitors) Matsumoto Shave Ice will be spared.
It pits two long-time, family-owned shave ice stands against each other, and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
Talking with owner Stanley Matsumoto, there has never been an unfriendly rivalry between the two shops. They have coexisted for more than 30 years, offering similar but different flavors and goods. And both have devoutly loyal followings.
So it’s no surprise the outpouring of support for Aoki’s when several media outlets — and the shop’s own Facebook page — reported it would be closing up shop.
It’s hard to watch the North Shore turn into this visitor destination, though I know it was only a matter of time.
Folks are lured to this area primarily for the massive winter swells. But over the years, shops and restaurants have seen increases in traffic during the flat summer months, with visitors flocking here because of its reputation. The beaches are pristine, the snorkeling stellar. And now, thanks to development, there are lots of shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes to patron.
It’s a hard balance: you want businesses on the North Shore to survive (and thrive!), but you don’t want to change its appeal and charm.
And building new and more shops and buildings may not be the answer.
What’s your take?