Experience the Magic of Honolulu, HI, at Ala Moana Center Mall

The Birth and Evolution of Ala Moana Center Mall

Ala Moana Center Mall, located in the heart of Honolulu, Hawaii, is a testament to visionary planning and robust development. The journey of Ala Moana began when the land, originally a wetland, underwent a significant transformation spearheaded by Walter F. Dillingham.

In 1912, Dillingham acquired the land from the estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop and initiated dredging projects that filled the area with coral, setting the stage for future development.

The actual concept for the shopping center was initiated by Dillingham’s son, Lowell Dillingham, who envisioned a commercial hub catering to Honolulu’s residents’ growing needs. The project, Ala Moana Center, broke ground in 1957, with the design and development led by Don Graham.

Despite skepticism over its unconventional design, which turned its back on the Pacific Ocean, the center was successful when it opened its doors on August 13, 1959.

It was not just a shopping center; it was a revolutionary design that included two levels for retail and parking, a novel concept at the time.

Upon its opening, Ala Moana Center was declared the largest shopping mall in the United States. This title brought significant attention and prestige.

The original tenant lineup included notable names like Sears, Roebuck and Company, F. W. Woolworth Company, Foodland, Longs Drugs, Shirokiya, and other local shops.

This mix of local and national stores helped Ala Moana quickly become a central shopping destination for residents and visitors.

The success of Ala Moana Center prompted several expansions and renovations over the years. The first major expansion in 1961 introduced the Ala Moana Office Building and La Ronde, the first revolving restaurant in the United States.

The addition of JCPenney and Liberty House in the new Diamond Head wing in 1966 further solidified the mall’s status as a premier shopping location.

The 1980s and 1990s saw more changes, with Japanese corporation Daiei and an insurance company purchasing the center in 1982 and General Growth Properties taking over in 1999, which merged into Brookfield Properties in 2018.

The evolution of Ala Moana Center reflects the changing dynamics of retail and community needs, adapting to offer more than things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Its continuous growth and ability to attract a wide range of tenants have made it a pivotal element in Honolulu’s retail landscape, maintaining its relevance and appeal in a rapidly changing world.

Ala Moana Center: Transformations in the New Millennium

In 1999, General Growth Properties (GGP) acquired Ala Moana Center, initiating a new era of expansion and renovation. This acquisition marked the beginning of a series of improvements aimed at modernizing the mall and enhancing the shopping experience for visitors.

The early 2000s saw the introduction of the Makai Market food court, a significant upgrade from the traditional mall food options, offering a diverse range of cuisines and dining experiences. This addition catered to the growing demand for quality and variety in mall dining options.

Ala Moana Center Ewa Wing
Ala Moana Center Ewa Wing” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The departure of Sears in 2013 was a pivotal moment for Ala Moana Center. The closing of this anchor store, which had been a part of the mall since its opening in 1959, paved the way for new developments.

The space formerly occupied by Sears was transformed into the Ewa Wing, a modern expansion that opened in 2015. This new wing included additional retail space and welcomed major retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, enhancing the mall’s luxury retail offerings.

The Ewa Wing expansion was not just about adding more stores; it represented a shift towards creating a more upscale and diverse shopping environment.

The addition of Bloomingdale’s marked the department store’s first foray into the Hawaiian market, while the relocation of Nordstrom from its previous location within the mall to the new wing allowed for a larger, more modern store.

Ala Moana Center continued to evolve throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s, introducing new stores, dining options, and amenities.

The center’s focus on providing a high-quality, diverse shopping experience has helped it maintain its position as a key retail destination in Hawaii.

Architectural Marvel and Cultural Hub

Ala Moana Center’s design is a standout feature, blending modern Hawaiian architectural principles with Asian Pacific Rim motifs.

This unique combination reflects Hawaii’s diverse culture and the significant Asian influence on the island.

The center’s layout and design elements, such as the famous koi ponds, symbolize happiness and tranquility in Japanese culture, adding to the mall’s serene atmosphere.

The central promenade and spacious outdoor settings are hallmarks of Ala Moana’s design, offering a pleasant shopping experience different from the typical enclosed mall.

The open-air concept, a rarity when it was built, has been maintained and enhanced through various renovations, ensuring that the center remains a modern, welcoming space for all visitors.

Ala Moana Center Stage
Ala Moana Center Stage” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ala Moana Centerstage is another significant aspect of the mall’s architecture. It has become one of Hawaii’s most popular public amphitheaters in the shopping center’s heart.

Regular performances, including hula dances and Royal Hawaiian Band concerts, entertain shoppers and highlight local culture.

The stage’s popularity underscores Ala Moana’s role as a cultural hub, where visitors can experience the rich traditions of Hawaii alongside their shopping.

Retail and Dining Landscape

Ala Moana Center boasts an impressive array of over 350 stores and services, making it a premier destination for shopping and dining in Honolulu.

The mall’s retail mix includes a range of options from luxury brands to local boutiques, ensuring that there is something for every shopper.

Notable international brands such as Apple, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel sit alongside beloved local stores like Reyn Spooner and Martin & MacArthur, offering a diverse shopping experience.

The dining options at Ala Moana are just as varied, with the Makai Market food court providing a selection of local and international cuisines.

Established in 1987, the food court has become a favorite spot for casual dining, featuring popular eateries such as Goma Tei Ramen and Musubi Cafe Iyasume. In addition to the food court, the center is home to several restaurants and cafes catering to a range of tastes and preferences.

Anchors of Ala Moana: A Closer Look

Several major department stores anchor Ala Moana Center, each contributing its unique flavor and shopping experience to the mall’s diverse landscape.

Bloomingdale’s, a luxury department store chain, made its Hawaii debut at Ala Moana in 2015, taking over part of the space left by the previous Sears store.

This addition brought a range of high-end fashion, beauty products, and home furnishings to the shopping center, catering to residents and international visitors.

Macy’s has been a staple at Ala Moana since it replaced the former Liberty House in the early 2000s. As a well-known national retailer, Macy’s offers various goods, from clothing and accessories to home items, appealing to a broad audience.

Target opened its doors at Ala Moana in October 2017, occupying the space formerly held by Nordstrom.

This store marked Target’s first venture into a Hawaii mall, providing shoppers with an extensive selection of electronics, clothing, groceries, and household items.

Nordstrom, another high-end department store, relocated to the Ewa Wing of the mall in 2015, enhancing the luxury shopping experience at Ala Moana.

Nordstrom is known for its quality apparel, accessories, and customer service, adding to its appeal as a premier shopping destination.

Neiman Marcus has been part of Ala Moana since 1998, offering luxury clothing, accessories, and goods.

As one of the first upscale department stores in the mall, Neiman Marcus set the tone for the introduction of other high-end retailers in the years to follow.

Saks OFF 5TH, a luxury off-price department store, offers shoppers high-end brands at reduced prices. This store appeals to bargain hunters looking for designer goods without the designer price tag.

Marshalls and Ross Dress for Less offers discounted brand-name clothing, footwear, and home accessories. These stores cater to budget-conscious shoppers, rounding out the diverse shopping experience at Ala Moana Center.

A Taste of Ala Moana Center’s Dining Scene

Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, HI, offers diverse dining experiences that cater to every taste and occasion. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, a leisurely meal, or something exotic, the center has it all.

Quick Bites and Snacks: The center provides numerous fast and convenient options for shoppers on the go. 

Musubi Cafe Iyasume and Auntie Anne’s are perfect for those needing a quick recharge snack. Meanwhile, Jamba Juice and Happy Lemon offer refreshing beverages for a tropical respite from shopping.

Casual Dining: If you’re seeking a more relaxed meal without the formalities, Ala Moana Center has a variety of casual dining spots. 

California Pizza Kitchen and Buffalo Wild Wings are favorites for family lunches or dinners, offering a range of dishes catering to children and adults. Goma Tei Ramen and Genki Sushi provide a casual yet authentic taste of Asian cuisine.

Coffee and Desserts: Coffee enthusiasts and sweet tooths will find plenty to enjoy. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Island Vintage Coffee serve aromatic coffees and teas alongside sweet treats. For dessert, Cinnabon and Haagen-Dazs offer indulgent pastries and ice cream.

International Flavors: For those looking to expand their culinary horizons, Ala Moana Center boasts an array of international dining options. 

Tanaka of Tokyo offers a Japanese teppanyaki experience, while Gen Korean BBQ House invites diners to enjoy Korean-style barbecue. Assaggio provides a taste of Italy with its hearty pasta dishes.

Healthy and Specialty Foods: Health-conscious diners and those with specific dietary preferences can find various options. Island Vintage Coffee offers organic and health-oriented meals.

At the same time, Foodland Farms presents a selection of local, organic, and specialty foods for a quick and healthy meal.

These dining categories showcase the breadth of Ala Moana Center’s food offerings, ensuring every visitor can find something to suit their palate, from traditional Hawaiian fare to international delicacies.

Economic Impact and Success Metrics

Ala Moana Center is a shopping destination and a significant economic entity in Honolulu. The mall’s success is reflected in its high occupancy rates and sales figures, with annual sales exceeding $1 billion, making it one of the most profitable malls in America.

The center’s economic impact extends beyond sales revenue. It has created thousands of jobs, from retail and food service to security and maintenance, contributing to the local economy.

The presence of international and luxury brands attracts tourists from around the globe, further boosting Hawaii’s tourism industry.

Ala Moana’s value as a retail property is unparalleled in the United States. As of 2018, the mall was valued at nearly $6 billion, a testament to its success and enduring appeal.

This valuation reflects the center’s ability to adapt to changing retail trends and consumer preferences, ensuring its status as a global market player.

Recent Developments and Future Prospects

The future of Ala Moana looks promising, with plans for further development and renovation. The center aims to stay ahead of retail trends by incorporating more experiential spaces and services that cater to the changing preferences of shoppers.

This includes integrating technology-driven solutions and creating more interactive and engaging shopping environments.

Safety and security have become a priority for Ala Moana, especially following a recent chemical attack near the center in early 2024.

The incident has led to increased security measures and community outreach efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of shoppers and employees.

These initiatives demonstrate Ala Moana’s commitment to providing a secure and enjoyable shopping environment.

New Stores at Ala Moana Center in 2024

Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, HI, continues to expand its diverse range of shopping options with the addition of several new stores.

These recent openings and upcoming launches are set to enhance the shopping experience for all visitors, offering everything from high-end fashion to unique local brands.

Now Open:

  • Body Balance: Offers a diverse range of fitness classes, including high-energy BodyCycle, strength-focused BodyStrong, and the innovative BodyCore Microformer, catering to all fitness levels. Located in the Diamond Head Wing, this studio combines intense workouts with rhythmic music and modern equipment to provide a comprehensive fitness experience.
  • Canada Goose: This renowned outerwear brand has opened its doors on Mall Level 2, near Neiman Marcus. Known for its high-quality winter jackets and outdoor apparel, Canada Goose brings its signature style and warmth to the sunny shores of Honolulu.
  • Two Palms: Situated on Street Level 1 near Centerstage, Two Palms features locally made Hawaiian apparel. Specializing in vibrant, island-inspired clothing, this store adds a touch of local flavor to Ala Moana’s retail mix.

Coming Soon:

The Agency: A new addition to the mall’s luxury lineup, The Agency is set to open soon. While details are still forthcoming, this store is expected to offer exclusive real estate.

Cartier: The world-renowned jeweler, known for its exquisite watches and fine jewelry, is slated to open a new boutique at Ala Moana Center. This addition will undoubtedly add to the mall’s luxury shopping experience.

Hawaiian Island Creations: Soon to open its doors, this local brand will offer a wide range of surf-inspired apparel and accessories, perfect for residents and visitors looking to embrace the island’s surf culture.

Kaialoha Supply: Originating from Maui, they offer apparel and accessories for those who cherish the ocean’s beauty, power, and significance.

They are committed to delivering high-quality products and services, fostering a culture of Aloha in every interaction with customers, coworkers, and suppliers. The brand embodies a positive community influence, promoting an Aloha mindset through all aspects of their work.

Panerai: Known for its luxury watches, Panerai is set to join the ranks of high-end retailers at Ala Moana Center. Watch enthusiasts can look forward to exploring their latest collections.

Sugar Factory: Known for its extravagant sweets and Instagram-worthy treats, it is set to bring its colorful and playful dessert options to Ala Moana Center.

These new stores at Ala Moana Center reflect the mall’s ongoing commitment to providing a diverse and dynamic shopping environment, catering to the tastes and needs of its wide array of visitors.

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