New life for old plaza

LIHUE — An old plaza has a new lease on life.

Lorren Van Fossen, owner of Prudential All Star Realty in Kapaa, recently bought the small shopping center where their office is located and has big plans for the property.

“The goal is to have boutique shopping center,” he said.

The building at 4-971 Kuhio Highway was constructed by the Nakamura family in 1973. They remained the owners until the sale was closed on Feb. 15.

“The sale was at $1.4 million due to its vacancy rate at the sale and needed repair,” Van Fossen said. “The upstairs was in ruin as well as some lower units of commercial space were gutted.”

Prudential first leased their spot at the plaza in 2005 and now has 19 agents on Kauai. When the building came up for sale, Van Fossen said he recognized an ideal opportunity for his family trust.

“We weren’t planning on buying this but the (Nakamura) family said it was time to sell and they approached us,” he said. “I saw the potential of this location and knew it just needed some new life into it.”

An average 27,000 people drive by the plaza each day. Whether a local or a visitor, they are all traveling north or south and an attractive plaza will draw some of that business, he said. There is a left-turn lane off the highway and a parking lot with a separate entrance and exit.

“This was designed right,” Van Fossen said.

A new plaza directory sign is visible from the road along with updated lighting. It lists Tiki Tacos, First Cal Mortgage, Ola Massage, Maile’s Barber Shop, and Sandy Dog Pet Grooming.

Van Fossen said the most exciting news is that Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill chef and owner Jean Marie Josselin plans open a “JO2 Natural Cuisine” restaurant at the plaza in the only vacant unit. The restaurant would not verify if the move was official.

Van Fossen said the space is fitted with a commercial kitchen and fan. However, the new restaurant is starting from scratch down the bare concrete.

“The number one reason he wanted to move in here is the improvements we made to the building,” Van Fossen said.

Tiki Tacos just expanded into an adjoining unit and doubled their size after Popo’s cookies moved out in February. Van Fossen said he plans to introduce a gourmet shaved ice stand in front of the property, he said.

There was major work to be done. The priority was to repair around 40 years of salt and wind damage from the ocean that is just 500 feet away. The tenants are all on board with the improvements that also included new back-flow prevention, he said.

Van Fossen said they invested $200,000 in improvements to repair structural damage to make the building safe. The construction was performed by David Estrella of Estrella Enterprises and Jack Mayer, an electrician.

The three, two-bedroom apartment units on the second-level are renovated to rent as furnished, high-end transitional housing for traveling professionals and nurses.

“This could also work for some real estate clientele who need something in-between,” he said.

To beautify the units he added new crown molding, drywall, stonework, windows and doors inside and copper gutters above. He provides WiFi and flat screen televisions, furniture and monitors security cameras around the premises.

“It is about 90 percent done and we hope to have them furnished and occupied by January,” he said.

The sale makes Prudential the only brokerage that owns its own plaza and it helps to show potential clients there is a commitment to stay.


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