Puna Kai opening pushed back to fall 2019

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Construction of the Puna Kai shopping center continues Wednesday in Pahoa.

Progress continues on the new Puna Kai shopping center in Pahoa, which is set to open next fall, months after original plans intended.

Owner and developer Gary Pinkston said buildings will be turned over to tenants in early July, with the shopping center expected to open close to October, before the 2019 holiday season.

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Sitting on 9.93 acres near Kahakai Boulevard and Pahoa Village Road, Puna Kai will feature retail, office, dining and entertainment space, according to punakaihawaii.com. The development will be anchored by the 35,000-square-foot Malama Market, which will relocate from its current site in Pahoa.

Although a spring 2019 completion date was previously anticipated, Pinkston said construction still is on target.

“We lost two days with the lava flows,” he said, speaking about this year’s lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano in lower Puna.

Additionally, the project did not lose construction time because of this summer’s record rainfall brought by Hurricane Lane and other storms, said Pinkston, “or if we lost a day, we made it up somewhere else.”

The shift of the anticipated opening date is because of delays on Malama Market’s part, he said — “just their own internal schedule.”

According to Pinkston, “horizontal construction” — or things such as roadwork, street signals and installation of a sewer plant — is about 85 percent completed, while “vertical construction,” or work on the buildings, is about a third completed.

Pahoa took an economic hit earlier this year because of the eruption, which wiped out more than 700 homes, and visitors avoided Hawaii Island in general and lower Puna in particular. The town suffered a second blow when the eruption activity ceased and visitors stopped going to Pahoa to try to see the lava.

Pahoa businesses reported struggling in the wake of such conditions, and a number of businesses have closed. But Pinkston said he’s not concerned the state of the town’s economy will negatively impact the new development.

“The tenants are pushing us to get open,” he said.

Shopping centers work because “that’s where the traffic is,” Pinkston said.

“We’re not concerned about the economy at all. Our concern is getting it built.”

According to Pinkston, about 95 percent of the development is leased.

As of Wednesday, confirmed tenants for Puna Kai are: Malama Market, Aloha Petroleum, Chef TK/Lemongrass Cafe, Outrigger Coffee Co., Pahoa Veterinary Hospital, Black Lava Vape, Mixed Plate by L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Pizza Hut, SusHI, Under the Bodhi Tree, O’Reilly Auto Parts, McDonald’s, Jeans Warehouse, Family Health &Wellness Center, Stratos New York Pizzeria, Hilo Bay Realty, Maui Tacos, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Fitness Forever, Goodwill and Banzos, a Hawaiian-style falafel restaurant.

About 7,000 square feet remain to be leased.

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“We will be making this shopping center, as we always do, a big part of the community,” Pinkston said, noting that the center will want to provide a number of community-centered activities throughout the year.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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