Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center
Location Ala Moana, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Coordinates 21°17′28″N 157°50′37″W / 21.29111°N 157.84361°W / 21.29111; -157.84361Coordinates: 21°17′28″N 157°50′37″W / 21.29111°N 157.84361°W / 21.29111; -157.84361
Address 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard
Opening date August 13, 1959
Developer Don Graham
Management General Growth Properties
Owner General Growth Properties
No. of stores and services 310 stores, restaurants, and services
No. of anchor tenants 5
Neiman Marcus
Total retail floor area Approx. 2,400,000 square feet (220,000 m2)
No. of floors 4

Ala Moana Center, commonly known simply as Ala Moana, is the largest shopping mall in Hawaii. It is also the seventh largest shopping mall in the United States, and the largest open-air shopping center in the world.[1] Ala Moana is consistently ranked among the top ten most successful malls in the United States, and in 2009 was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as America's second most profitable, behind The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Located at 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard in Honolulu, Ala Moana Center is part of the commercial, retail, and residential district of Ala Moana, south of Makiki, east of Kakaʻako, west of Waikīkī and adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park.


Before the construction of the mall, the land was a swamp. Dredging projects nearby spearheaded by Walter F. Dillingham created excess coral which filled the swamp, purchased by Dillingham in 1912 from the estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Land reclaimed, son and successor Lowell Dillingham initiated the Ala Moana Center project in 1948 and broke ground in 1957.[2]

Initial development and design

The Ala Moana Center was developed and designed by Don Graham.[3] Critics viewed Graham's unusual design, which oriented the mall away from the Pacific Ocean and included two levels for retail and parking, as a potential failure.[3] However, the Ala Moana Center proved a success after its opening, and helped refocus the retail center of Oahu away from downtown Honolulu.[3] Graham worked as the center's first general manager after its opening.[4]


When it opened in 1959, Ala Moana Center became the largest shopping mall in the United States. General Growth Properties of Chicago currently owns and operates Ala Moana Center. Although later retail developments across the nation have overshadowed it over the years, General Growth Properties markets and lists Ala Moana Center as the "World’s largest open-air mall" with a total gross leasable area of 2,100,000 square feet.[5] Its original tenants included Sears, Roebuck and Company; F. W. Woolworth Company; Foodland; Longs Drugs; and Shirokiya, among other local shops. Ala Moana Center's second phase expansion included the 1961 addition of the Ala Moana Office Building (including La Ronde, first revolving restaurant in the United States), the 1966 addition of J. C. Penney and Liberty House in a new Diamond Head wing. In 1982, Ala Moana Center was purchased by a partnership of Japanese corporation, Daiei, and an insurance company. In 1995, Daiei became the sole owner. Once a management vendor for Daiei, General Growth Properties purchased Ala Moana Center in 1999.[2]

Addition of Makai Market food court

The Makai Market food court was built in 1987. A 1999 expansion created a berth for Neiman Marcus and created more upper level retail spaces.[2] A shopping complex and parking spaces were demolished just north of the shopping mall in 2006 to make way for General Growth's latest expansion project, the Mauka wing, which was completed on March 7, 2008 and is anchored by Nordstrom.

Success and expansion

Neiman Marcus Store at Ala Moana Center

In a June 26, 2009 report from U.S. News & World Report, Ala Moana was ranked as the second most profitable mall in America based on sales per square footage, and also had one of the highest occupancy rates at 95%. The report described the flourishing mall as a gold mine, with annual sales of more than $1 billion.[6]

In the early 2000s, the mall underwent extensive renovation and expansion, transforming it into the modern and world-class shopping destination it has become today. During this period the mall added two new wings: a Makai wing to the south anchored by Neiman Marcus, and a Mauka wing to the north headlined by Nordstrom.

Departure of Sears

On February 23, 2012, Sears Holdings Corporation announced it would close its store at Ala Moana Center by early 2013. Sears held its original location and had a presence at the mall since its opening in 1959. The closing was part of a $270 million sale of 11 Sears properties nationwide to General Growth. The Wall Street Journal estimated that the Ala Moana Sears location was the largest portion of the deal, comprising between $200 million to $250 million of the overall sale price. The Ala Moana location closed permanently at 7 PM on June 2, 2013.[7][8]

Ewa Wing expansion

On May 17, 2013, General Growth Properties, the owner of Ala Moana Center, announced that department store Bloomingdale's would anchor and occupy 167,000 square feet (15,500 square metres) of a new and expanded 650,000 sq ft (60,000 m2) Ewa wing.[9] The expanded wing opened on November 12, 2015,[10] replacing the existing wing on the western end of the mall, including the space previously occupied by Sears.

Architecture and layout

Central promenade of Ala Moana Center.

Costing US$25 million in 1959, Ala Moana Center had eighty-seven stores and four thousand parking spaces. Ala Moana Center was remodeled extensively in various phases. New designs reflected modern Hawaiian architectural principles, emphasizing the importance of the symbolism of various natural phenomena found in Hawaiʻi. Asian Pacific Rim motifs have been adopted reflecting the large Asian population of residents in Hawaiʻi. For decades, a centerpiece of Ala Moana Center was its koi ponds. In the Japanese culture, koi represents happiness and tranquility. Despite these enhancements, the design of the Center has been criticized for its over-built appearance and hodge-podge architecture, the result of years of modifications and expansions under different owners. Still, Ala Moana Center architecture and layouts inspired owners General Growth Properties in 2004 to invest over USD 1,000,000,000 in remodeling various other shopping centers across Canada and the United States using Ala Moana Center as a template.

Ala Moana Centerstage is one of the most popular public amphitheaters in Hawaiʻi. On a stage in the center of the shopping complex, local talents are showcased for visitors to enjoy. Hula dances are a staple for Ala Moana Centerstage as well as performances by the Royal Hawaiian Band, the oldest municipal band in the United States. Schools throughout the country, as well as the world, travel to Honolulu just to be able to perform at Ala Moana Centerstage.

In addition, episodes of the local TV show Hawaii Stars, a singing competition, are usually filmed on this stage. Onlookers can usually be seen crowding the second- and third-story balconies overlooking the stage during taping.


Store Opened Size Notes
Anchor stores[11]
Bloomingdale's 2015 162,000 sq ft (15,100 m2)
Macy's 1966 326,860 sq ft (30,366 m2) Opened in 1966 as Liberty House, expanded/renovated in 1980, converted to Macy's in 2000.
Neiman Marcus 1998 151,055 sq ft (14,033.5 m2)
Nordstrom 2008 185,000 sq ft (17,200 m2) Relocated to new Ewa Wing in 2016
Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th[12] TBA TBA Former Nordstrom building
Shirokiya 1959 54,180 sq ft (5,033 m2)


A bus bound for Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center is a major public transportation hub for TheBus, Honolulu's mass transit system. Ala Moana Center is the center of Honolulu's public transportation system and can be accessed by routes from all points on O'ahu. Ala Moana Center is accessed daily by numerous city and tour buses.

The second phase of Honolulu Rail Transit, scheduled to open in late 2021, will have its eastern terminus at the Ala Moana Center.[13][14]

See also


  1. "Ala Moana Center turns the big 5-0 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 2013-02-03.
  2. 1 2 3 Gomes, Andrew (2006-06-30). "Can Ala Moana Center get any bigger?". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
  3. 1 2 3 Gomes, Andrew (2010-08-19). "Ala Moana Center developer transformed isle real estate". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
  4. "Don Graham dies, developed Ala Moana Center". KHNL. 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
  5. "Properties & Leasing - Ala Moana Center". Chicago, IL, USA: General Growth Properties. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
  6. Newman, Rick (2009-06-26). "America's Most Profitable Malls - Rick Newman". Retrieved 2013-02-03.
  7. "Sears employees told Ala Moana store will close June 2". Pacific Business News. February 19, 2013. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  8. Tsai, Michael (June 3, 2013). "Sears closes at Ala Moana". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved June 8, 2013. (subscription required)
  9. Scheuring, Ian; Dicus, Howard (May 17, 2013). "Bloomingdale's to open in Ala Moana Center, replace Sears retail space". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
  10. "Ewa Wing Expansion Opening". Ala Moana Center. Archived from the original on 2015-11-01.
  11. "Chronological Highlights" (PDF). General Growth Properties. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
  13. "Honolulu Rail Transit Project Overview" (PDF). Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. September 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2015.

External links

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