Real Estate Advisors & Property Strategy Consultants

J Richard Hill

Wai Kai

Wai Kai – water. town. wonder.

Ewa Beach, Hawaii / Pre-development
Richard Hill and Co. is the driving force behind the retail strategy for the $350,000,000 retail, dining, and entertainment destination at Wai Kai, which is the centerpiece of the planned 2-billion-dollar Wai Kai at Hoakalei Resort located in Oahu, Hawaii. The project includes members only 18-hole Ernie Els- designed golf course and $17,000,000 clubhouse, entitlements for up to 840 luxury condos and up to 950 hotel rooms, with the 115-merchant retail center. The first phases are now under construction, with retail spaces scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

Under the direction of principal Rick Hill, we conducted the original market research, developed the preliminary economic models, and advised a team of exceptional creative professionals. We developed the retail merchandising plan around water experiences and outdoor activities, food culture, resort and luxury fashion, and a wide variety of opportunities for socialization and entertainment.
Wai Kai is extraordinary in its size, scope, experiences, and unique touch points, all carefully integrated into a living landscape adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Our challenge was to create nothing short of a transformative experience: a reinvented marketplace that redefines lifestyle and experiential retail. Our solution was a plan to make Wai Kai a destination retail resort designed for true brand activation at an unprecedented scale.

A destination retail
designed for true

Analysis of Existing Conditions
The site of Wai Kai was first occupied by early Pacific Islanders in the 7th Century, yet the ocean side of the site has remained virtually undisturbed for centuries. Working with a cultural anthropologist, we conducted deep research on the land, its geology, and the cultures of its early inhabitants to gain a real understanding of the place called Wai Kai, which means “where the mountain water reaches the ocean water.”
Consumer Research
Our initial research in West Oahu found a vastly underserved market with one of the lowest per-capita rates of shopping center space in any metro area in the United States. and the fact that 40% and more of retail sales in Waikiki were made by visitors. We concluded that the extraordinary site called for a heightened vision of a dynamic attraction with international appeal, rather than an original vision of a neighborhood center with a small amount of retail supporting a hotel. Ultimately, we quantified a market for a major retail and entertainment attraction that resulted in the creation of an upscale merchant mix, signature restaurants by leading chefs, and the addition of world-class entertainment attractions.

Next, we conducted a deep dive into the demographics, lifestyles, and buying characteristics of the market. We found high disposable incomes of local residents, and as aspirational consumer that shopped for better fashions, luxury, and enjoyed fine dining restaurants.

We then geofenced operating stores of luxury retailers on the U.S. mainland to create vivid profiles of their shoppers. With this data in hand, we conducted a survey of the Wai Kai trade area and identified by block level the same consumer segments living in West Oahu.

Our consumer research allowed us to position the project as a unique destination for Oahu visitors and in the center of a highly underserved market. The challenge was determining how both the local and visitor markets could be attracted to the site’s unique attributes of its waterfront location, environment, and authentic history.

Master Plan
The Wai Kai master plan was finalized as a fully integrated waterfront retail, dining, and entertainment destination at the center of a vibrant new community. The master plan was highly rationalized and fully vetted based on the research and retail programming conducted by J. Richard Hill & Co.

Merchant and Attraction Strategy
With the master plan in place, we created a space- by-space merchandising plan that spelled out the square footage for each proposed use, such as various retail types, restaurants and cafes, and a range of entertainment and attractions.

10-mile Demographics
355,090 – population
102,133 – households
$116,278 – Avg. household income

brand activation.

Concept Generation and Development
“The Waters of Wai Kai” emerged as our primary direction-setting idea. But how would we integrate the required parking lots, a retail and dining site separated from the Pacific Ocean with a 52-acre lagoon? These questions were answered by concentrating the retail on a peninsula extending into the lagoon and then creating walks, trails, promenades, in a garden-like environment at the water’s edge.

Floating bridges were designed to allow visitors to experience the water without getting wet. Boardwalks, promenades, and numerous other places were designed to allow direct access to the water. A float-in theater, where a landside cinema screen could be viewed from small group floating water pods, was incorporated into the design. We worked with our partner WET Design and Thinkwell to create interactive water attractions and experiences that told the story of Wai Kai.

The idea of connection to the water continued to guide the direction of the site’s retail, food, and social spaces. In collaboration with our land planners and architects the concepts of walks, alleys, trails, ways, and promenades were designed like a pearl necklace that connected gardens, lawns, lanais, and plazas – all wrapping the 52- acre lagoon and its intimate coves. With this framework we created districts and neighborhoods of like and compatible experiences, activities, and lifestyle brands.
Retail Concepts
The merchandising plan was developed on a macro level, leading to a program of specific retail types for every space in a development.

A team of professionals directed by J. Richard Hill & Co. actively marketed the property, effectively communicating opportunities to prospective retailers, restaurants, attractions, and entertainment providers. Space at Wai Kai will be 50% pre-leased (before vertical construction begins), and the project is on track to open 230,000 square feet of retail, dining, and entertainment attractions substantially leased.
J Richard Hill
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