Pearlridge Center; Aiea, Hawaii

Pearlridge Center Skycab Monorail in Aiea, HI 

We’re always eager for something a little different in the realm of retail.  Whether it be a nonstandard site floorplan, dated or unique decor, uneven mix of stores, it catches our eye.  The largest enclosed mall on the island of Oahu in Hawaii is one of these situations.  Located just off the H1 freeway near the mouth of Pearl Harbor, Pearlridge Center sits on top of a hill, amid a long string of strip malls and big box along Highway 99. 

 So why’s the mall interesting?  I can think of at least three ways.  First, Pearlridge is split in two and the halves are discontiguous.  They’re in two entirely separate buildings.  The building closest to the highway is called Downtown and anchored by Sears on one end, and a two-level mall extends to the other end ending at a series of doors.  A food court sits in the middle of this section, on a third level above the entire mall.  It’s connected by escalator into the rest of the mall and the third level only exists for the food court.  The other building’s mall is similar and called Uptown, though Uptown is anchored by Macy’s on one end and Price Busters (Think Family Dollar, Dollar General) on the other end. 

What else?  Well, the mall’s parking structure in the mall building closes to the highway, called Uptown if you were paying attention before, has a large parking structure attached to the FRONT of it.  An entrance to the mall is inside, but instead of taking you right into the mall, it takes you into a basement court, BELOW the two-level mall.  The basement court has Long’s Drugs, and some other services, but is not large at all.  It mainly functions as the escalator to take you up into the actual mall.  The parking structure extends to at least three levels away from the mall, too.

 The third special design feature of Pearlridge Center is the Monorail connecting the two mall buildings, Uptown and Downtown.  Yes, I saved the best for last.  As far as I know, this is the only functioning monorail in a mall in the country, or even the world?  I’m not sure.  Anyway, this was a shocking, amazingly awesome design feature to find.  The monorail connects the food court in Uptown with the food court in Downtown.  It’s called Skycab, and it costs fifty cents for a one-way trip.  I was kind of taken aback by the fact that they charge for this service, when the mall doesn’t even charge for parking, but I’m sure it’s pretty expensive to operate.  It’s about a two minute ride (if that?) and the monorail snakes around the corner after leaving each station, crosses the canal made for the nearby watercress farm, and arrives at the other station.  Not surprisingly, it’s used frequently by people who want to avoid the parking lot traffic, heat, and blazing sun walking between the two malls.  It also effectively makes the two food courts one. 

So what about the mall itself?  Well, aside from the aforementioned anchors, Pearlridge Center is a pretty standard, modern decor.  Being the largest enclosed mall on Oahu and the center of retail for all of western Honolulu, it has all the standard national stores and some local ones too.  It’s very well kept up and always packed.  This is a very popular place.  However, the fact that the mall consists of two totally separate buildings and they connect by monorail makes this mall five stars.  Go to the mall’s website for more info. Pics taken June, 2006 by me.

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Windward Mall; Kaneohe, Hawaii

Windward Mall Macy's in Kaneohe, HI

Imagine a place in paradise where you are minutes from verdant, lush rainforests, steep mountains, and some of the best beaches on the bluest water you’ve ever seen.  The puffy clouds hide the bright blue sky, and the weather’s nearly always perfect. This can all be found in the cities of Kaneohe and Kailua, across the Ko’olau Mountains and about 15 minutes from Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The population on this side of the island is approximately one-fifth that of Oahu at large, or about 180,000 people.  The retail on the windward side of the island is centered mainly along the Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe, with several shopping centers along the road including the Windward Mall.  The windward side’s only enclosed “traditional mall”, Windward Mall is anchored by Macy’s, Sears, and a 10-screen stadium seating theater.  The mall also has over 100 stores on two levels, and a satellite city hall for Kaneohe.

Windward Mall Center Court in Kaneohe, HI

Windward Mall is shaped like a wish-bone, with three major mallways intersecting at one main center court.  Each mallway is anchored by either Macy’s, Sears, or the movie theatre at its end, and each is also two levels.  The decor of the mall is amazing: think of the malls you shopped in as a kid, or however old you were in the 1970s or early 1980s.  The entire floor on both levels is a very shiny maroon brick.  The railings along the second level are dull and wooden with very thin, white slats.  The mall opens up at center court and the ceiling is raised to expose a large, circular UFO-like skylight.  Along at least one wing, giant elephant-earring like clear circular lights shone on the shiny floor from atop black posts.  The stores in the mall were very mid-range, catering to a variety of demographics.  More succinctly, the mall feels like your average typical suburban mall of middle America.  From 1980.  Despite the dated decor, the stores are current and represent most of the national as well as local chains.  I was elated at the mall’s decor as well as its beautiful location in the shadow of the 3000-foot mountains, with the beach just minutes away.

According to an article posted by the mall’s owner, the Kamehameha Schools, in January, 2006, Windward Mall will soon be undergoing an extensive $23 million interior renovation.  Likely, this means the days of the giant pearl lights and the shiny maroon floor are numbered.  This will be the mall’s first renovation since it opened in 1982!  In addition, General Growth Properties was retained to help the mall acquire a more national tenant mix and add more popular retailers to Windward Mall. 

 All pictures were taken by me in June, 2006.

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Kahala Mall; Honolulu, Hawaii

Kahala Mall entrance in Honolulu, HI

Located next to the eastern terminus of Oahu’s H1 freeway and nestled close to the base of Diamond Head Crater, Kahala Mall is one of three suburban, enclosed malls on Hawaii’s most populous island.  The mall is a two-level footprint in an ‘L’ shape, anchored by Macy’s, Star Markets, and Long’s Drugs.  There is also a large movie theatre, the Kahala Theatres.  The demographics surrounding the mall are decidedly upscale, and the mall mimics these trends with stores such as Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Godiva, The Body Shop, and 90 other shops, services, and restaurants.  Dining establishments include California Pizza Kitchen, Carl’s Jr, Chili, Pizza Hut, L&L Drive Inn, and several more counter service food-court style establishments.  Outside the mall, a two-level parking deck surrounds the mall on several sides.  On the second level of the parking deck are more shops and services, including a Barnes and Noble.  Behind the mall are the Kahala Office Tower and Kahala Office Building, with dozens of professionals including doctors, dentists, and financial services.

The outside decor of Kahala Mall is fairly modern with a tropical twist.  The colors on the outside of the mall are vibrant: the purple letters of the mall rise above the mall’s entrance with a brown stucco floral wall behind them.  The inside portions of the mall are carpeted in portions with a sturdy gray commercial carpet; the remaining floor is covered in cream-colored tile.  There are several skylights in the mall; however, the mall seemed a bit dark inside in places.  The seating areas, planters, and some storefronts suggest the age of the mall, and it is not new.  However, all areas of Kahala Mall were busy and the vacancy rate was low.  This mall is definitely successful.  According to the mall’s website, there’s even free Wi-Fi in center court for the astute traveller on the go.  I didn’t use it on my recent visit, but it’s always nice to know I can get connected in one of my favorite venues: a mall. 

 All photos were taken by me in June, 2006. 

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