With assessment complete, Ala Moana Center takes next step to repair railings

Photo: Lance Luke
Photo: Lance Luke

Ala Moana Center is following the city’s orders to make sure its railings are safe so that no one else gets hurt.

Last month, one of the railings collapsed. A man died after falling several floors and another man was critically injured.

City inspectors issued a notice of violation to Ala Moana Center, requiring the mall to fix any rusted or deteriorating railings. The center had 30 days to apply for a building permit.

Francis Cofran, Ala Moana Center general manager, said in a statement: “In response to the October 9 incident, Ala Moana Center’s structural engineer has completed a thorough assessment of all railings on property. All areas of concern have been secured and steps are being taken to make all necessary repairs. The safety and welfare of our customers, employees and tenants is our top priority. This is a matter that we are taking very seriously.”

We learned Ala Moana Center recently applied for the permit and the value of repair work is estimated at $4 million.

Building inspector Lance Luke described railings in certain areas of the center as “neglected and rusted.”

He said he noticed inspectors on site, as well as barricades placed around certain railings.

“In my opinion though, a lot of railings are going to have to be replaced. You can’t just cut and patch it,” Luke said.

The city is still waiting to see the plans, and we asked Ala Moana Center to see them also. So far, no answer.

We asked engineering contractor Damien Enright, president of Structural Systems, what kind of reinforcements can be done with that money.

“Four to six million (dollars) is quite a hefty price tag,” he said. “You could probably replace a majority of railings. You can do a job completely and correctly with that type of price tag.”

Both Enright and Luke say it could weeks to years to complete a railings repair project.

“The repair work, in my opinion, is not gonna be completed by shopping season. There’s no way,” Luke said.

Enright says rusted railings are a big problem in Hawaii and some states require railing inspection, something Hawaii should consider.

“It seems like a lot of hassle for owners, but when you think about future liability and risk, it makes sense, but it’s not happening,” he said. “Railings should be thought of just as much as plumbing, concrete, and painting, but they’re not.”

We reached out to the attorney representing the two families of the victims in the fall, but he said he had no update to provide us.

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