In an early 2018 plan, we see that the west end of the mall has been rebuilt with two new anchors and approximately seventy-five inline tenants. Likewise, a vacant Nordstrom store has been repurposed as a vertically-stacked Saks Off Fifth and Target. ALA MOANA CENTER now encompasses around 2,581,100 leasable square feet, with a retail roster of three hundred and eighty-one stores and services.

Ala Moana Boulevard and Piikoi Street
Honolulu, Hawaii

The Aloha State's second mall-type shopping hub was built on the island of O'ahu ("The Gathering Place") and was situated on a 44 acre tract, midway between Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu. The land parcel was entirely within the City and County of Honolulu. Construction commenced on March 18, 1958.

The open-air complex was erected upon reclaimed swampland and developed by the Dillingham Land Company, who commissioned Seattle's John Graham, Junior to design the 2-level structure. It cost 25 million dollars, encompassed 680,000 leasable square feet and was anchored by a 2-level (250,000 square foot) Sears.

A "soft opening" took place August 13, 1959. In attendance were Walter F. and Lowell Dillingham (the mall's developers), Morley Theaker (manager of Sears), Governor William F. Quinn and Neal S. Blaisdell (Mayor of Honolulu). The opening festivities included an invocation, military color guard flag raising, choral and musical presentations and a hula performance. Fourteen stores opened their doors.

The center's official grand opening was held October 25, 1959. By 1961, there were ninety tenants. These included McInerny's Men's, Longs Drugs, Philippine Arts & Crafts, Ala Moana Coffee Shop & Down Under Bar, Coral Reef restaurant, Foodland supermarket, Japan-based Shirokiya department store and 2-level F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The retail core of the mall was surrounded by a bi-level parking deck that accommodated over four thousand cars.

The first expansion of ALA MOANA CENTER got underway in January 1965 and was completed in mid-1966. This tri-level addition, referred to as the Diamond Head Wing, included a 3-level (245,000 square foot), Honolulu-based Liberty House (the new flagship of the chain), which opened for business April 6, 1966.

Liberty House was accompanied by a 3-level (180,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, dedicated June 1, 1966. Shirokiya also relocated into a 53,000 square foot store in the new wing. In addition, the existing Sears was expanded with a full third level. The store now encompassed 341,100 square feet and was one of the largest stores in the chain.

The first mall-type shopping hub on the islands had been completed in November 1954. WAIALAE ["wiy-uh-liy"] CENTER {4.7 miles southeast, in the Kahala district of Honolulu} was renovated in 1969-1970 and renamed KAHALA MALL. The complex became the first enclosed shopping center in the state. PEARLRIDGE CENTER {8.6 miles northwest, in the Aiea district} was dedicated in 1972, with ROYAL HAWAIIAN CENTER {1.2 miles southeast, in the Waikiki district} opening its doors in 1979.

Liberty House at ALA MOANA CENTER was enlarged, with a fourth level, in 1980. The store now encompassed 326,600 square feet. The next renovation of the shopping venue took place in 1986-1987. The 19-bay Makai Market Food Court was installed in the original location of the Foodland supermarket, on the Street Level of the mall. Moreover, the circa-1959 Woolworth was downsized and relocated into a single-level store.

In 1990, an extended Third Level was built atop the original bi-level part of the mall. The fourth expansion of ALA MOANA CENTER added a 3-level (161,000 square foot) Neiman Marcus to the south side of the complex and new retail space to the Third Level. The new Neiman Marcus was dedicated September 18, 1998. In May of the year, the center had been purchased by Chicago-based General Growth Properties.

The new century brought more changes. Liberty House was "Macy-ated" November 22, 2001. J.C. Penney closed January 10, 2003, with its area being sectioned into thirty new stores and restaurants. Moreover, a fourth mall level, the Ho'okipa Terrace, was completed in 2005.

In 2006, work began on the Mauka Wing, a sixth addition to ALA MOANA CENTER, which consisted of a 3-level (220,000 square foot) Nordstrom and 80,000 square feet of new stores. The expansion was dedicated March 7, 2008. It increased the gross leasable area of the mall to approximately 2,100,000 leasable square feet, confirming its position as the largest open-air mall in the world.

ALA MOANA CENTER celebrated its 50th year in business on August 13, 2009. The birthday bash included a traditional Hawaiian blessing, multicultural entertainment and a ceremony recognizing the eleven charter tenants still in business. These were Crack Seed Center, Dairy Queen, Foodland, Longs Drugs, Reyn's men's wear, Sears, Shirokiya, Slipper House, Territory Savings Bank, Watamull's and the US post Office.

Sears was shuttered June 2, 2013. The store was sold to General Growth Properties, who demolished the building and replaced it with over 650,000 square feet of retail area.

Built as an extension of the mall's Ewa Wing, the addition included a 3-level (159,900 square foot) Bloomingdale's (the first -and only- location on the islands) and 3-level (179,400 square foot) Nordstrom (a relocation of the circa-2008 store). Bloomingdale's held its grand opening November 12, 2015, with the new Nordstrom making its debut March 11, 2016.

An existing parking structure was extended upward. New inline stores included Kohl's, H & M and Whole Foods Market. As the expansion was built, the existing mall was given a facelift. The 573 million dollar project was complete by late 2016. ALA MOANA CENTER now encompassed approximately 2,581,100 leasable square feet.

The mall's circa-2008 Nordstrom store, vacated in early 2016, would not remain unleased for long. In November 2016, remodeling work commenced on the structure. It was reconfigured with two stores. A 1-level (41,000 square foot) Saks Off Fifth, occupying the ground floor, opened in the spring of 2017. Target, with 2-levels and 140,000 square feet, began business in the fall of the same year.

Sources: / Essay # 140 / "Graham, John Junior (1908-1991)" / Article by Heather MacIntosh
"Liberty House" article on Wikipedia
"Ala Moana Center Architectural Report" / Mason Architects / April 16, 2014
"Hawaii" article on Wikipedia
"Shirokiya" article on Wikipedia
Comment post by "Go Nordrike!"
"Ala Moana Center" article on Wikipedia (General Growth Properties)