Would Walmart be welcomed in Downtown Honolulu?

Downtown Honolulu could be getting a Walmart.
Downtown Honolulu could be getting a Walmart.

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Downtown Honolulu could be getting a Walmart. There’s a possibility that the retail giant could take over the site formerly occupied by Macy’s.

There’s no official word from Walmart, but the City issued a permit for a retailer to renovate the spot. According to the plans, it certainly sounds like it will open as Walmart.

Macy’s at Fort Street Mall shut down just over a month ago and a permit has been issued for a new tenant that wants to make $6 million in renovations.

The new tenant plans to install grocery aisles, all types of merchandise racks, and a McDonald’s McCafe. If it is going to be a Walmart, residents and area workers like the idea.

“I think it’s convenient for a lot of people who work around here, office supplies, and stuff,” downtown worker Aubrey Tokioka said.

“Any time you have a big or a good business down here, it brings in the legitimate people and the criminals tend to go elsewhere,” said Lynne Mausow, Downtown Neighborhood Board.

The store is about 85,000 square feet, which would be on the smaller side for a Walmart. But it would be enough to bring in plenty of clothing, electronics, as well as groceries.

Retail Analyst Stephany Sofos says Walmart would work better in this location than Macy’s because Walmart has common everyday stuff that everybody needs. It would also be convenient for the 40,000 workers and 20,000 residents in the area.

“The history of Walmart shows that people come to Walmart to shop. You love them or you hate them, but they come and everybody shops at Walmart and they’re going to be an asset for the working people of Honolulu,” Sofos said.

As for driving out the mom and pop shops, Sofos says the big box retailer will actually help smaller stores by bringing more foot traffic to the area. As for car traffic, Sofos says the effect will be minimal.

“It will actually help traffic, I think, because you’re not driving on the road to get to your retail store. It’s right there downstairs from where you’re working,” Sofos said.

Walmart won’t confirm whether it plans to open a Downtown store.

In a statement released Thursday, Walmart said, “The existing Honolulu Walmart is very popular with residents and tourists. While we are always looking for opportunities to better serve our Honolulu customers, we don’t have any new projects to announce at this time.”

But again, all signs point to this being some type of big box store.

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