PEARLRIDGE CENTER
Kamehameha Highway and Kaonohi Street
Honolulu City & County, Hawai'i

The fourth shopping mall on the island of O'ahu was built 7.5 miles northwest of the Hawai'i State House, in the Aiea ["iy-ah-ay"] section of Honolulu. PEARLRIDGE CENTER was to eventually occupy 51.8 acres of a 67.9-acre plot. The parcel was shared with the 13.3 acre Sumida (watercress) Farm. The land on which PEARLRIDGE CENTER was built was leased from the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Trust Estate.

The mall was developed by a joint venture of E. Phillip Lyon, Sheldon M. Gordon, Ed Brennan, John Fujieki and the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. A PHASE I structure was designed by Robert P. Gersin Associates of New York City.

A 2-level (109,000 square foot), Honolulu-based Liberty House became the first store to open at the site, on October 30, 1971. This store would anchor the 2-level PHASE I mall, along with a 2-level (102,900 square foot) J.C. Penney.

Inline stores began opening in June 1972. PHASE I, which spanned 650,000 leasable square feet, was officially dedicated on August 9 of the same year. Charter tenants included Joseph Magnin, ABC Discount Drugs, Ritz Store, Playwell Toys, DJ's Sound City Records, Foxmoor Casuals, Hickory Farms of Ohio, Hartfield's apparel, Pearlridge Book Nook, See's Candies, Thom McAn Shoes, Spencer Gifts, and a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour.

The original PHASE I mall also included a prototype food court. Known as the International Kitchen, it featured thirteen vendors. There was also a rooftop parking deck over the mall proper and J.C. Penney. One of the final operational PHASE I stores, a (17,000 square foot) Daiei ["diy-ah"] Asian Market, was dedicated November 19, 1972.

A freestanding CONVENIENCE CENTER was built in the southwest corner of the site. It housed eleven tenant spaces, with the largest occupied by a Star Supermarket. A 2-level (220,000 square foot) Sears opened, on the south end of the site, in October 1974.

Built as a freestanding store, Sears became the anchor of a 400,000 square foot PHASE II mall, when it was completed in the fall of 1975. This structure was designed by Robert B. Liles, of San Francisco, and the Los Angeles-based firm of Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall.

PHASE II consisted of 3 levels, with most of the first dedicated to covered parking. A rooftop parking deck covered the mall proper, but did not extend over Sears. Some original stores were Kinney Shoes, Thom McAn Shoes and a (26,000 square foot) Longs Drugs. A 3-level (120,000 square foot) Daiei opened on November 18, 1975, as a replacement for a smaller PHASE I store. The new Daiei included a supermarket, specialty department store and Volks Steakhouse.

Soon after the completion of PHASE II, a monorail station was added to the PHASE I structure's rooftop parking deck. This station became the western terminal of the new SkyCab monorail. This .2 mile transit system, which connected the PHASE I and PHASE II structures, made its first official run on November 7, 1977.

PHASE III, a single-level strip center, was built across the street from the PHASE II mall. It housed the Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge Theatres 1-2-3-4. This venue showed its first features on July 11, 1976. It was the first 4-plex cinema in Hawai'i.

Japan-based Shirokiya ["shuh-doh-ki-yuh"] opened a PEARLRIDGE store on April 2, 1981. It was located in what had been the Daiei Asian market space, in the Phase I mall. The PHASE II Daiei closed its doors on April 30, 1986. A second cinema complex was installed in Level 3 space. The Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge West Theatres 12 made its debut on November 20, 1987.

Major shopping malls in the PEARLRIDGE trade area were all located in Honolulu City & County. These included ALA MOANA CENTER (1959) {8.6 miles southeast}, WAI'ALAE ["wiy-uh-liy"] CENTER-KAHALA MALL (1954 & 1970) {12.1 miles southeast} and WINDWARD MALL (1982) {9 miles northeast}.

A multilevel parking structure was built along with the PHASE II mall. It extended, over Pali Momi Street, to the PHASE III building. A second parking garage was added, west of Liberty House, in 1989. Third and fourth garages were completed, at the east end of the mall site, in 1990. With all these components in place, PEARLRIDGE CENTER encompassed 1,250,000 leasable square feet.

The 1990s brought another commercial competitor for PEARLRIDGE CENTER. The open-air WAIKELA CENTER {4.3 miles northwest, in Honolulu City & County} was completed in 1993.

During 1996, the entirety of PEARLRIDGE CENTER was given a 3.5 million dollar face lift. At this time, the PHASE I mall was renamed UPTOWN; PHASE II as DOWNTOWN. PHASE III became PEARLRIDGE EAST and the western outparcel (with a new Circuit City) became PEARLRIDGE WEST.

The existing 12-plex cinema was expanded with a 4-screen, stadium-seating venue, which opened December 18, 1998. This theater was located beneath the Level 3 DOWNTOWN 12-plex. The adjacent multiplexes were renamed Pearlridge West 16. The original 4-plex cinema in PHASE III / PEARLRIDGE EAST was shuttered and converted into office spaces.

Anchor store rebrandings commenced on November 22, 2001, with the conversion of Liberty House to Macy's. The adjacent Shirokiya had been shuttered in March 2001. The store space was eventually leased by Macy's. They refashioned it into a dance club-motif, teen fashion store called Thisit ("This Is It"), which opened in June 2002. 

J.C. Penney closed all Aloha State stores on January 10, 2003. The PEARLRIDGE building sat vacant for over a year. It was eventually subdivided into twenty-nine store spaces, with the new mall wing referred to as UPTOWN II.

Retailers began opening in November 2004. Stores would eventually include Kay Jewelers, Moe's Southwest Grill, Tiki Tiki, a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, (31,000 square foot) Borders Books and (24,800 square foot) Price Busters. 

Borders and Price Busters closed in September and December 2011, respectively. The Price Busters space was taken by T.J. Maxx, which opened May 17, 2012. The old Borders became a Ross Dress For Less. This store was dedicated on October 10, 2013.

Meanwhile, in August 2010, PEARLRIDGE structures -but not the land they occupy- were acquired by a joint venture of New York City's Blackstone Group and Columbus, Ohio's Glimcher Realty Trust. The Simon Property Group created a spin-off Real Estate Investment Trust in May 2014. Known as the Washington Prime Group, it merged with the Glimcher Realty Trust in early 2015. A 49 percent interest in four malls (one being PEARLRIDGE CENTER) was sold to New York City's O'Conner Capital Partners.

In the 2020s, PEARLRIDGE is the state's largest fully-enclosed shopping center. It currently spans 1,288,600 leasable square feet and features 170 stores and services. A 33 million dollar renovation of the DOWNTOWN mall commenced in March 2017. Its interior and exterior were updated, the Food Court refurbished, and cinema downsized back into a 12-plex.

Two freestanding stores were also built. New mall tenants included Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Lindbergh men's wear, Pieology Pizza and a Down To Earth natural foods grocer. The remodeling was completed in late 2018. Just a few years later, a charter DOWNTOWN anchor store would fold. Sears abruptly closed for good on April 18, 2021, after over 47 years in business.

Sources:

The Honolulu Star Bulletin
The Honolulu Advertiser
www.pearlridgeonline.com
http://www.staradvertiser.com
http://mallmanac.blogspot.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.westernmassnews.com
www.hawaiithreads.com
www.hawaiistores.com
https://www.khon2.com
Honolulu County, Hawai'i property tax assessor website
"Pearlridge Center" article on Wikipedia