Lawmakers discuss homeless concerns as retailers prepare to open in Iwilei


The area where Kmart used to be in Iwilei is developing drastically, and homeless camps in that area may also see some change.

We know Longs Drugs, Ross Dress for Less, and PetSmart will be the new tenants, but district representatives say they’re worried about the impact of the homeless in that area.

So how do these companies plan to bring in business, and what’s going to happen to all those camping on the sidewalks?

A real estate expert said while the homeless camps in Iwilei can keep customers away, the location is good for business.

“That location is primarily for the urban core, but there is 85,000 cars that go by there every day, and if you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I have to get something,’ you are going to stop at that store,” said real estate analyst Stephany Sofos.

But the sidewalks in the area have been blocked off by camps filled with people living on the street.

“It has become entrenched and they are completely blocking the sidewalks and driveways. It’s difficult for people to get in and out,” said Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan. “It’s really affected the area, and it’s gotten people scared to the point that they don’t want to come to the area anymore.”

So how will these new stores get customers through the door? We reached out to the property manager Seritage Growth Properties, which sent us a statement that read: “We are confident our efforts to transform the property into a first-class retail destination will enhance the offering for the local community.”

We also reached out to the three tenants and a spokeswoman from Ross Dress for Less said the location provides a great opportunity. The company tells us it considers a variety of factors, including target demographics and visibility.

Sofos says one way businesses can manage the homeless situation in the area is to provide customers with better security.

“I don’t believe it will be a problem if there’s enough security,” she said. “People are always concerned about their cars and safety.”

Manahan says he introduced a sit-lie bill for that area when a fatal stabbing happened on Iwilei Road back in January.

“We really held off in legislating for this part of the island, but we have been getting complaints from the area businesses and residents for the past four years,” he said.

That bill has passed its second reading.

As for the three new stores coming soon, you can expect Ross Dress for Less and Longs Drugs to open this summer, followed by PetSmart.

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