A Local Friend

How Central Pacific Bank and Nordic PCL built the hottest meeting spot in downtown Honolulu


n 2019, Central Pacific Bank (CPB) decided to go beyond banking.

CPB is “committed to being continually relevant to our customers and our community” and the rapid evolution of customer preferences, says Paul Yonamine, chairman and CEO of Central Pacific Financial Corp., the holding company for CPB. 

Matt Gilbertson, MGA Architecture LLC president and director of design, says Yonamine felt CPB’s downtown Honolulu flagship branch needed “a full physical transformation to bring out the best of the new CPB customer experience, and to signify to the community CPB’s renewed commitment.”

In February 2020, Yonamine and Gilbertson put their heads together, and the $30 million renovation of CPB’s main branch took off.

What happened when you met Paul Yonamine?

   Gilbertson: From that single meeting, Mr. Yonamine engaged MGA as his architect for the project. I returned a few weeks later and presented my vision of how the flagship property could achieve a transformation worthy of such inspirational goals. Our vision was an instant hit with Paul and the CPB board, immediately launching the project and the relationship. Within days, the challenging schedule to complete the project materialized.

Was the project part of CPB’s RISE2020 initiative?

   David R. Jones, CPB Senior Vice President–Properties Division: CPB unveiled the RISE2020 project in July 2019. It was a visionary innovation project designed to renovate our flagship downtown headquarters and main branch, upgrade our ATMs to the most technologically advanced banking machines in the state, invest in digital banking and implement an overall refresh on the brand and feel of the bank. We reimagined the traditional banking space (to create) a vibrant area with community workspaces, a Starbucks Pickup and Aloha Beer Co.

   Gilbertson: Creating a seamless indoor-outdoor flow and making the bank environment more visible, accessible and friendly fit perfectly with RISE2020’s rebranding and goals to become the most friendly and approachable bank in Hawaii.

   Lance Wilhelm, President, The Wilhelm Group: They had a vision for this becoming a gathering place where people and ideas would come together and build a more vibrant downtown. 

Who was on the project team?

   Jones: CPB, Nordic PCL Construction Inc. and MGA Architecture were essential partners from start to finish.

   Wilhelm: We joined the team after the architect and contractor had already been engaged. We were asked to oversee the project from a construction management perspective, but given the complexity of the project and the many stakeholders involved, we took on more of an overall project management role.

What was the project scope?

   Pamela Nitta, Nordic PCL Special Projects Division Manager: Converting the existing 13,000-square-foot flagship main branch into a multi-functional facility—a complete interior renovation of the ground floor, construction of a spacious indoor/outdoor community lanai with a vaulted ceiling created by removal of the second-floor structure, new spaces for community collaboration, tenant spaces for Aloha Beer and Starbucks, decorative canopies, a community showcase art wall, and a seven-story metal and glazing facade.

What were the challenges?

   Wilhelm: The schedule was aggressive, the budget was tight and the expectations were high. This project was built within a relatively small footprint and had to be completed while the branch and the building continued to operate. Careful planning was required to maintain access for all of the building occupants as well as the bank’s customers throughout the work.

   Nitta: The renovation was a planning exercise with Rubik’s Cube complexities. Work that would be disruptive was performed overnight.

Did CPB help resolve these challenges?

   Jones: Yes, our core CPB Project Management team took active daily participation with construction scheduling and resolving issues. Many from CPB contributed to the success of the project including senior leadership, our properties division, customer experience and branch banking teams.

What did you do before breaking ground on March 2, 2020?

   Nitta: The seven-story-high metal facade and integrated metal canopy that would straddle the plaza on South King and Alakea streets were not typical in Hawaii and would prove to be a procurement and installation challenge. During preconstruction, Oahu Metal & Glazing (OMG) was selected with a product that would be manufactured in Singapore.

Did you demo the interior?

   Nitta: The team scanned the building’s interior to identify existing structural members prior to demolition of a section of the second floor that would become the atrium.

How did you build the facade?

   Nitta: Nordic PCL’s team utilized digital construction software and a 3D laser scanner to confirm measurements of the building’s exterior prior to product fabrication. The team also used a drone to inspect the quality of the metal and glass facade work installed by OMG.

How did you phase construction?

   Nitta: Phase 1 was the completion of the temporary branch on the Alakea Street side of the property. 

Phase 2 completed all interior work and the open exterior plaza, which included the hardscapes, landscaping, metal facade and glazing, and metal canopy on the King Street side of the property. The exterior plaza and sidewalks were completely redone with an architectural concrete and landscaping.

Phase 3 consisted of completing the elevator lobby, Alakea Street plaza and entry, including hardscapes, landscaping, metal facade and glazing, and metal canopy.

How did you deal with COVID-19?

   Jones: COVID-19 brought numerous challenges of changing the situation every week, labor shortages, material delays and work stoppages. The team faced the difficult decision to stop construction, cancel it altogether or keep going. We ultimately decided to keep moving forward and double down on our vision and commitment to RISE2020.

   Wilhelm: The project had to develop and implement safe work guidelines to ensure that we could keep moving the project forward without putting workers in harm’s way.

What new banking technology did you introduce?

   Jones: Upgrading our ATMs to be the most technologically advanced banking machines in the state. In addition, our customers today have full access to their account features from any connected device, have access to the state’s top-rated banking apps and Hawaii’s first online live chat feature.

How did members of the project team coordinate with each other?

   Nitta: There was very open and transparent communication at all times to the highest executive levels of CPB so everyone was apprised of the project status.

   Jones: CPB took an active role during the project, including participating in all OAC meetings and inspections. CPB input was crucial at multiple levels of the project because of the specialty nature of banking.

   Wilhelm: While TWG, NPCL, MGA and CPB also employed skilled and talented staff members to execute the project on a day-to-day basis, each firm had their president, chief executive or principal participate in regular update meetings. These were as infrequently as once a month, but during the most critical moments, they could and did occur daily. 

What’s the best example of
collaboration on this project?

   Gilbertson: All the team members rallied around an accelerated design-build review process where the product vendors and installers played an integral role in the design and early pricing process. This hands-on process allowed for real-time evaluation of concerns with every stakeholder in the room.

   Nitta: Nordic PCL, MGA Architecture and The Wilhelm Group collaborated as “One Team” to successfully deliver CPB’s vision.

   Jones: The expertise, creativity, trust and tenacity to complete our vision on time and on budget.


What do you think is the project’s standout feature?

   Jones: Our “Kai Wall” is a magnificent piece of kinetic art featured in our lobby atrium. Local artists and craftsmen connected each rain stick to move according to the live data feed that is connected to buoys located around the Hawaiian Islands. It is a high-tech, yet artistic surf report located in the heart of downtown Honolulu.

   Nitta: The metal canopy and facade provide a very distinctive “pop” against the concrete exterior of the original construction.

   Gilbertson: The new vaulted atrium space connecting seamlessly to the plaza. A second standout is the co-working environment seamlessly connecting to the bank branch.

When the project wrapped, had CPB’s goals been achieved?

   Jones: Phase 1 was completed and opened on Jan. 25, 2021, when the City & County’s pandemic restrictions were still in full effect. Yet the opening was an exciting event and a glimmer of hope for better things to come. Nearly a year and a half after opening, the CPB Main Branch and Tidepools have been an enormous success, with a vibrant community of people coming to CPB to talk-story and do business.

We have received feedback from numerous people about how much they love our bank and spending time in our main branch. Some of the sentiments we’ve heard include the statement that we have “the sexiest bank in the state.” We have also been able to host events in a classy and sophisticated fashion and enjoy hearing how much people love the renovation. We feel that it is breathing new life into downtown Honolulu.

   Wilhelm: The old space was a branch with a lot of darker shades of grey and brown. Now there is life there. People are talking, laughing and making memories. People are enjoying a coffee or a beer. But people are also talking about business, politics, life. It’s become a place to make connections, and connections are what Hawaii is all about.

CPB Main Branch Renovation Team

Leadership – Central Pacific Bank

MGA Architecture LLC

Matt Gilbertson, Design Principal, Architect of Record

Jeff Morrison, Sr. Project Architect

Ron Barber, Sr. Project Manager

Allen Garduque, Construction Administration

Nordic PCL Construction Inc.

Pamela Nitta, Special Projects Division Manager

Eric Ballew, Project Manager

Nathan Ramler, Project Manager

Charles Uyehara, Superintendent

Kathy Cruz, Project Engineer

Benjamin Le‘i, Project Engineer

Anderson Nguyen, Project Engineer

Jason Chun, General Foreman

The Wilhelm Group

Lance Wilhelm, President

Jesse Dowsett, Vice President

Rod Nagao, Project Manager



Small talk and big ideas flow easily in CPB’s new cafe and Tidepool workstations.


The Neighbor Force

A new tower in urban Honolulu serves working families and troubled youth


Hale Kālele Residences—the new 20-story tower bound by Piikoi, Alder and Elm streets and a Texaco service station on King—meets the needs of most moderate- to lower-income residents in urban Honolulu.

Amenities include: An adjacent parking garage with 213 stalls. Bike storage. Proximity to The Bus, H-1 on-ramps and the future Ala Moana Rail Transit Station. Laundry and recreation rooms. And 200 affordable rental units for families earning at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income.  

What’s unique about the $90 million project is the addition of Hale Hilinaʻi Juvenile Service Center on the first and second floors, serving low-end law violators younger than age 17. The juvenile center has a medical lab, interview rooms, temporary sleeping quarters and a counseling center. Its Alder Street entrance is separate from the residential apartment’s Piikoi Street main lobby.

The duo project was the first affordable development for Kobayashi Group and MacNaughton Holdings and the first inter-agency partnership between the Hawaii State Judiciary and the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. Since 1949, the Judiciary had occupied the 1.45-acre, prime property.

The partnership provides “much-needed affordable housing in the redevelopment of the underutilized property,” says Alana Kobayashi Pakkala, chief operating officer and partner of Kobayashi Group. “Hale Kālele and Hale Hilina‘i serve two needs vital for Hawaii to thrive.”

That desire to help local families inspired the construction and design teams to build as efficiently and safely as possible during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Giving local people a place to call home is a significant, life-changing event,” says Ryde Azama, project engineer for general contractor Albert C. Kobayashi Inc., which held a groundbreaking ceremony in September 2020. “Completing the project ahead of schedule had been a top concern for the team as the housing crisis has plagued Hawaii for years.” May 2022 is the targeted finish date. 

 Azama says “tools to make the job a success” were daily sanitation, sequencing, temperature screening and contract tracing programs. Virtual meetings between owners and sub-contractors were the norm.   

Sustainability was another goal for the building. The units have Energy Star appliances, photovoltaic panels and batteries that provide 60 percent of energy needs, electric vehicle car sharing and charging stations, and electric bike and scooters available for residents. (See page 16, “Carbon Infusion and Tunnel Forms.”) 

What sets Hale Kālele apart from other affordable dwellings, too, are the large, floor-to-ceiling glass windows typical of higher-end properties. Residents—after a hard day’s work—can soak in views of Honolulu’s skyline. “The increased natural light exposure improves the well-being and happiness of the occupants,” says Steve Teves, principal of Design Partners Inc., architect for the project.

Ryde Azama
Steve Teves