Former Hilo Lanes to become new Penn gym

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Purchase of the long-vacant Hilo Lanes bowling alley for $2.55 million closed Monday.

A Hilo businesswoman said Wednesday her purchase of the long-vacant Hilo Lanes bowling alley for $2.55 million closed Monday.

Lorraine Shin, owner of M.S Petroleum Corp., said plans are to relocate the nearby Penn Training &Fitness Center, owned by her son, UFC Hall of Fame mixed martial arts fighter BJ Penn, to the 38,000-square-foot building and to brand it as UFC Gym BJ Penn, the name borne by facilities in Waikele and Mililani on Oahu.

“We’re working on that right now with the UFC gym folks,” Shin said. “Our gyms in Honolulu are doing very, very well, and we want to mirror what’s happening there here in the kind of service that we provide, because people just want to be healthy and take care of themselves.”

The Penn facility at 639 Kinoole St. has about 11,000 square feet of floor space and is “bursting at the seams,” according to Shin.

Shin registered a trade name for the former bowling alley property, 777 Kinoole Center, with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The 3.7-acre, commercially zoned property was vacant during litigation of a civil suit filed by Shin in April 2016, claiming Hilo Lanes Inc. reneged on a 2015 deal to sell her the bowling alley, which has been shuttered since May 2014.

“It’s been two years of just going back and forth, and it was frustrating. But right now, as a family, we’re excited and happy about moving forward,” Shin said.

M.S. Petroleum claimed, and Hilo Lanes confirmed in court documents, that Hilo Lanes accepted a subsequent offer on the real estate from The North West Co., a Canadian conglomerate that owns Cost-U-Less, a discount bulk grocer and general merchandiser that has a warehouse store next door to the Hilo Lanes property.

Shin told the Tribune-Herald in mid-January that negotiations led to “a meeting of the minds” among the parties, a phrase she echoed Wednesday.

North West last month announced plans to close the only other Cost-U-Less store in the state, in Kapaa, Kauai, on March 31, citing “ongoing financial losses.”

According to Shin, it will cost between $2 million and $2.5 million to convert the Hilo Lanes building. She estimated construction would take anywhere between nine months and a year and a half.

“Right now, our gym in Hilo has about 2,000 members,” she said. “I think once we get the new gym running, the numbers should go up to about 3,500 or 4,000. I think we should be able to increase our membership anywhere between 25 to 50 percent in the first year that we open.”

Shin added the gym would take about half the floor space. The remainder would be available for lease.

“I’d like to find some stable, long-term tenants who can complement what we’re doing as a gym,” Shin said. “Maybe a nice coffeehouse or a restaurant. I would love to have a Trader Joe’s in there, or something like that, but I don’t think Hilo’s ready for that.

“We just want to see what works.”

Shin said she’s “looking to lease out” the current gym property, at the site of the former Hilo Macaroni Co. cracker bakery.

“Everything’s about health care, so I want to partner maybe with somebody who does physical therapy,” she said. “We’re also thinking about opening up an after-school learning center for kids.”

The bowling alley property has become visually dilapidated and a haven for homeless people, but Shin said the building is “in structurally sound condition.”

“We have some repairs we have to do because of break-ins by homeless people, but right now, we’re just going to clean up and work on removing all the homeless,” she said. “We’re letting them know they can take all their stuff, whatever they have, even if they have things inside. We found two of the homeless camping on top of the roof this morning and asked them to leave. Apparently, they’ve been up there for some time because they’ve created sort of a homestead on top of the roof. Other than that, we’re just going to clean, sweep and throw things away.”

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