Out of its Shell

Turtle Bay Resort’s $100 million renovation makes a splash on the North Shore

By Cathy Cruz-George

Guests can lounge by the fire pit and reflecting pond adjacent to the lobby and bar. PHOTO COURTESY: Turtle Bay Resort

There’s a fire on the North Shore of Oahu. It burns inside a fire pit, located in the newly renovated lobby of Turtle Bay Resort. Wrapped around the lobby are brand-new, ceiling-to-floor windows and a reflecting pond with an infinity edge overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

These are among the many new features unveiled at the resort, which completed a two-year, $100 million demolition and renovation that began in October 2020. The owner and the general contractor—BRE Turtle Bay Resort LLC and Albert C. Kobayashi Inc. (ACK)—planned the renovation in four phases, starting with the lobby, guest rooms and pool. The spa, still in the design phase, is next.  

The hotel itself is the crown jewel of the sprawling resort, which encompasses 5 miles of North Shore coastline, two championship golf courses, hiking trails and horse stables across 1,400 acres of land. The property since the 1970s has driven the economy of North Shore’s Kahuku town, famous for shrimp trucks and farms. 

“Turtle Bay Resort is the premier hotel on the North Shore, and the changes made to the resort are just stunning,” says Brian Niitani, vice president of ACK.

Timing of construction was critical. From October 2020 to July 2021, hotel operations shut down while contractors demolished the lobby’s porte-cochere, installed a new bar and seating area and built a grand entry and driveway. The lobby was the brainchild of Los Angeles-based interior designer Dianna Wong and Hawaii-based WCIT Architecture, led by founder Robert Iopa. 

After the lobby’s completion, 408 guest rooms received new sliding doors, railing, flooring and new interior furnishings, while new lighting systems and custom-made chandeliers were added to the ballrooms, which kept their original layouts. Renovations to banquet areas wrapped in October 2022.   

High-quality materials from across the globe are evident throughout the resort, with porcelain tile from Spain and Italy, Ipe wood from Brazil, and marble and basalt from Italy. Monkeypod wood from Hawaii was used for countertops and for decorative surfboards and wooden structures throughout the property. 

Water features, found throughout the resort, made the biggest splash. Subcontractor Pacific Aquascapes Inc. installed three new pools after a complete demolition of the former amenities. Closest to the ocean is a sunning area and a 3,000-square-foot pool for families. Adjacent to that is a keiki pool with leaping waterspouts and two slide options, one at 60 feet long and the other at over 100 feet. Elevated above the family grounds is the 1,600-square-foot pool for adults only, a hot tub, tension-edge perimeter and an infinity-edge pool with ocean views. 

At the highest point, the lobby level, is the (aforementioned) reflecting pond, which is “an impressive 5,500 square feet and offers a 175-linear-foot infinity edge with breathtaking ocean views and sunsets,” says Frank Fontana, president of Pacific AquaScapes Inc. 

 Guests who use wheelchairs and scooters can travel from the lobby to the pool level, using a commercial platform lift by subcontractor Access Lifts of Hawaii Inc. The contraption has fire-rated doors and an emergency-landing system, plus it can carry up to six people, or a maximum of 1,200 pounds. 

“If a family comes to Turtle Bay and wants to ride to the poolside safely together with a grandma who is in a wheelchair, this lift makes it possible,” says Geno Godinet, president and CEO of Access Lifts of Hawaii Inc.     

Everyone who visits the resort will be wowed by the changes—not only to the pools, but also to the lobby, guest rooms and banquet hall, says Niitani. “Local businesses should also see an increase [in traffic] as this project will attract more visitors to the North Shore,” he adds. 

Mission Critical

Swinerton and Mitsunaga & Associates demolish an HIDOE campus to build the new high-tech Solomon Elementary School


Elementary school renovations are tricky affairs: noise, dust, little kids, big machines. If classes are in session, add slo-mo construction and relentless cost escalation.

These were some of the challenges at the Solomon Elementary School renovation on Schofield Barracks.

Subbu Venkataraman, Swinerton Builders project executive, and Steven D. Wong, Mitsunaga & Associates project architect, led the renovation. Funded by the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment, the project had a clear mission. And so did the school’s namesake—a Hawaii war hero.

What was HIDOE’s goal?

Wong: Provide a new school to replace the dilapidated school, which did not meet the current needs of the community it was serving.

What was the project mission? 

Thomas Swan, 1SG Samuel K. Solomon Elementary School Principal: [The school] was named to honor the heroism of First Sergeant Samuel K. Solomon during the Vietnam War and was approaching its 50th anniversary. 

Not only was the school in need of facilities that looked into the future to support new learning, but the community also knew that learning, curriculum and opportunity needed to be given to our military dependents and students. These are the future of our military service, our country, and are even valuable for the future of education. 

What was the project scope?

Venkataraman: Demolition of the existing building. Construction of a new school campus including an administration building, classroom building, student dining, covered play court, parking lots, concrete walkways and playfields. 

What was the project value?

Venkataraman: $80,174,969.

Did you need to install infrastructure?

Wong: New infrastructure for all civil work, telecom, CATV and electrical systems had to be brought in for the new school.  

Who were the members of the project team?

Venkataraman: Swinerton, general contractor; Rider Levett Bucknall, construction manager; and Mitsunaga & Associates and HIDOE.

Wong: The design team included Mitsunaga & Associates Inc., architect, civil and structural engineer; PBR Hawaii & Associates Inc., landscape architect; MCE International Inc., mechanical engineer; H & O-III Inc./Bowers + Kubota, electrical engineer; D.L. Adams Associates Ltd., acoustical engineer and audio-visual; and Engineering Technology Hawaii Inc., telecommunications.

When did you start?

Wong: Mitsunaga & Associates was engaged to start the initial design discussions with the school in January 2015. A series of charette and planning discussions were initiated to allow the community to discuss their big ideas for their new school. Design took about two years.

Venkataraman: Groundbreaking ceremony, July 6, 2017.

What was your main challenge?

Venkataraman: Phasing and construction on a military base and within an active school campus.

Wong: An option was to renovate the existing school. But it would severely impact and extend the construction time and completion—estimated to be about seven years. To solve this problem, portions of the new school were constructed on the school’s existing playground.

Did the kids use temporary classrooms?

Venkataraman: Phase 1 consisted of portable relocations, temporary fencing and demo of playground equipment.

What buildings went up in Phase 2?

Wong: The administration and classroom building. The existing cafeteria had to remain operational to service the new school. After the two new buildings were completed, the students, teachers and staff moved in.

Venkataraman: Buildings were mainly constructed of concrete, steel and masonry. 

What happened in Phase 3?

Venkataraman: Demolition of the existing school buildings, construction of Building D, parking lots and playfield.

Wong: The new student dining facility and the covered play court could be built. Then the existing cafeteria could be demolished. The last phase constructed a new playfield in the existing school’s site. These four phases of construction lasted four years.

Did you target LEED?

Wong: The project had to be designed to a minimum of LEED Silver. Sustainable features include:

• Energy-efficient and innovative mechanical systems, including a displacement type air-conditioning system.

• Natural lighting, daylighting, shading devices and views

• Energy-efficient and controllable light fixtures

• Water-efficient plumbing fixtures

• Controllable systems

• Radiant barrier in the roof assembly

• Higher R-value roof insulation   

• Low-E insulated windows 

• Low-emitting materials

• Ventilation effectiveness

• Construction indoor air quality management plan

• Recycled materials

• Fire suppression systems without HCFCs or halon

• Locally manufactured materials

• Recycling of construction waste materials

• Use of non-potable water for irrigation

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

Wong: Excellent communication with the entire project team, owners, contractor and the Solomon Elementary staff and community was done. The architect attended all weekly OAC meetings on-site for the duration of the project. All other parties also attended. If a problem was encountered, everyone collaborated and found the solution quickly to meet the schedule.

Venkataraman: During Phase 4, Swinerton and Rider Levett Bucknall worked with the school to prioritize much-needed parking lot sections and driveways to turn over certain areas to the school ahead of schedule to alleviate the rush-hour traffic and limited teacher parking. 

Which team members really made a difference?

Venkataraman: All subcontractors—a collective team effort. HIDOE and school staff—for cooperating and working together with the construction team.

Wong: Thomas Swan, principal of Solomon Elementary School, his staff, students and teachers. Ms. Brenda Lowrey and Mr. Benjamin Miura of HIDOE should be especially commended since they provided valuable input and knowledge of “lessons learned” from all the other projects they have worked on for HIDOE. 

All team members played and collaborated to make this a successful project.  

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

Venkataraman: The architectural color plan of the exterior buildings and polished concrete hallways. 

When the project wrapped in 2021, how was it received?

Venkataraman: It won a 2022 NAIOP Kukulu Hale Awards – Public/Government Project Award.

Wong: The project was completed on time and within budget. The completed school met all the design goals envisioned by the community, staff, HIDOE and students to provide a unique learning venue.

Swan: This design has removed barriers for the students and staff to transform the way we engage with learning. This new school now has unleashed unprecedented opportunities for creativity and innovation.

IBEW Pension Fund Building Rises in Kalihi Kai

Hawaii’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant hatches on the Valley Isle

By Cathy Cruz-George

Chick-fil-A, the fast-food brand known for juicy chicken sandwiches and employees who chirp, “My Pleasure!” opened its doors in August, nine months after Arita Poulson General Contracting LLC broke ground last November. Located in the Puunene Shopping Center in a densely populated neighborhood of Kahului, the restaurant is the first in Hawaii, setting the bar high for future franchises in the state.  

“Chick-fil-A has stringent guidelines on how they want every inch of the building to look, feel and operate, and it was our pleasure to make this happen,” says Darin Davis, Arita Poulson’s senior project manager who led the $4.4 million construction. “We felt it was our responsibility to coordinate everything with Chick-fil-A, all data documentation, scheduling and allotted tasks.”   

Construction from the ground up included the 5,013-square-foot building and full-service dining room, double drive-thru and a 900-square-foot outdoor patio. Overall, the restaurant’s design is traditional with a touch of contemporary and state-of-the-art technology.

The exterior of the building features local landscaping, natural stone, free-standing canopies and energy-efficient glass. All finish materials were sourced from across the United States and include custom facing, plastering, woodworking, flooring, painting, wallpapering and glazing.

Nearly 300 people collaborated on the project—from inspectors and architects to subcontractors and administrators—with strong support from Chick-fil-A’s Restaurant Construction and Development Team, which is the brand’s construction professionals and consultants who “guide the road to success and teach you the Chick-fil-A way,” Davis says. 

One of the subcontractors, Maui-based Aloha Sheet Metal, installed the restaurant’s HVAC system in a little over a month. “Chick-fil-A paid the most attention to an HVAC system that I’ve ever seen for a restaurant,” recalls Lance James, owner of Aloha Sheet Metal LLC, which purchased HVAC equipment from Tom Barrow Co., a supplier for Chick-fil-A. “The restaurant’s plans were spelled out and easy to deal with,” James says, adding that Arita Poulson has partnered with Aloha Sheet Metal on projects for 25 years. 

Another subcontractor, John Bordignon, agrees. He is president of East & West Aluminum Craft Ltd., which enclosed the restaurant’s 900-square-foot outdoor patio with aluminum railing sourced from Canada and California. 

Our scope in the Chick-fil-A project was relatively small in relation to our other projects,” he says. “However, no project is too large or too small, especially with the great working relationship between Arita Poulson General Contracting and East & West Aluminum.” Bordignon’s family, originally from Vancouver, founded East & West Aluminum 30 years ago on Maui. 

Trusted partnerships aside, what also strengthened the working relationship between Arita Poulson and its subcontractors was the technology used—namely, Plan Grid Software “that set the appropriate tone for smoother sailing down the road,” Davis says. The software enabled all parties to log daily and weekly logs, manage submittals and RFIs, and share photos. And “when the architect made changes, they appeared on all of our iPads instantaneously,” Davis says. “We had up-to-the-minute plans at all times.” 

The project received strong support from architectural and engineering firm Bowers + Kubota and Puunene Shopping Center’s landowner, Alexander & Baldwin.  

The nine-month build-out wasn’t without challenges, however. Global supply shortages caused shipping delays to Maui, and a handful of team members needed to isolate after contracting COVID-19. Fortunately, there were no workplace accidents, “and we also passed a HIOSH inspection as well, all thanks and credit to our amazing team for sticking together,” Davis says.

Now that the Kahului location is open, Arita Poulson is completing construction on Hawaii’s second Chick-fil-A restaurant on Beretania Street in Honolulu—in a building where a burger chain once reigned.

CAPTION: Chick-fil-A’s restaurant in Kahului is expected to generate 150 jobs.



“Collectively, we formed the perfect combination of industry experts and professionals, ultimately uniting as one massively powerful, amazing and awesome team, one ohana.” – Darin Davis, senior project manager, Arita Poulson General Contracting LLC


Kurt Ebner 

Rob Jenkins

Don Ickler

Angelique Hollenbeck

Sean Whaley 


Ariel Alonzo 

Tim “Rabbit” Spellicy 

John Evarts

Marlayna Gomes 

Timothy DeMichele


ALCAL Roofing (Sam Araneta)

Aloha Sheet Metal (Lance James)

Bowman Termite (Angie Villarimo)

East and West Aluminum Craft Ltd. (John Bordignon)

ELCCO Inc. (Kili DeNisi and Christina Wark)

Hawaii Plastering and Drywall (David Kamai)

Hilltop Contractors (Dimitri Matveev)

Island Plant Co. (Casey Foster)

JD Painting & Decorating Inc. (Dennis Lijewski)

Maui Plumbing Inc. (Robert Vincent)

Reflections Glass Maui (Jason Chavez)

Cavalier Construction (Stephen Whitehead)

West Maui Construction (Tam Kim)

IBEW Pension Fund Building Rises in Kalihi Kai


There’s something new rising on the west end of Hau Street in Kalihi. It’s the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Pension Fund building. Expect the wiring to be flawless. 

Set to open in April 2023, the four-story, post-tensioned reinforced-concrete parking structure is topped with two stories of structural steel office space and a large solar array on the roof. Construction began in December 2020.

Sparks Joy

According to Damien Kim, IBEW 1186 business manager and financial secretary, the new building is for administration, training and membership. It will feature more than 500 solar panels, a 100KW generator and battery backup. “The building was designed with state-of-the-art electrical designing. Wireless light fixtures, control relays to turn the lights on and off automatically, energy management for air conditioning and, for incorporating security and alarm systems, building automation,” says Kim. 

That’s a plan for LEED certification!

Plans Designed for 2 Phases of Construction

General contractor Nordic PCL Construction Inc. was at the helm of the project that was being completed in two phases. “During phase one, office spaces were created on the top two floors with parking on the lower [four] floors of the new six-story building,” says Casey Tollman, Nordic’s project manager for the site. “An outdoor roof terrace on the fourth floor provides a gathering space for members to congregate. 

“Much care was taken to mitigate noise and vibration generated by the work. Over-communicating among our team and with the client was key to keeping everyone safe,” Tollman says.

Tollman adds that the 4-foot distance between the existing building and the new structure meant that construction had to be coordinated to minimize disruption for the employees in the offices. Care was taken to avoid disruptions, such as utility outages during work hours. The work with the subcontractors was coordinated in the field through weekly and sometimes in-person meetings. And because of COVID-19, most of the weekly meetings with the design professionals were virtual.

Building with Technology

Once IBEW employees moved up to the shiny new digs with a view, Nordic began phase two to renovate the existing office spaces and completely gut them. A new HVAC system was installed, as was new lighting and upgraded finishes. As Kim noted, the exterior features new security fencing and gates, and a rooftop solar system.

Construction projects don’t progress well these days without software. Nordic PCL used BIM 360 Field Management for its punch list process during phase one. “Being web-based made it easy to share the subcontractors’ punch lists in real time. The program allows the team to tag the location of the issue on a plain view or by attaching pictures. The subcontractors could go into the program and mark their items as completed with notes. Zero paper wasted,” Tollman says. 

Subcontractors are Vital to a Project’s Success 

“We’ve been very fortunate to have a project team whose members were selfless and kept the success of the project at the forefront,” Tollman says. “The management of IBEW 1186 did not need to go through an education of the process as the project progressed. Their staff and members were very understanding and tolerant of any inconveniences created during construction, from the dust and noise to concrete trucks queuing up in front of the property for pours.” Subcontractors of note included:

• Mike Bradshaw and Loren Knappenberger of WASA Electrical Services for their intimate involvement at mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) coordination meetings, always verifying their electrical work with the work of other trades. 

• Travis Inay of Harris Rebar South Pacific Inc. ensured his crew had no errors and also worked with the other trades so that the schedule went smoothly. 

• Alan Suzuki and Jack Guerrero of Continental Mechanical of the Pacific (CMOP), whose scope was to coordinate the project’s mechanical, plumbing and fire sprinklers. Their overall buy-in, collaboration with the designers and suggestions to modify the design of the mechanical systems to accommodate existing conditions during phase two minimized costly delays. 

• Ray Okamoto, an associate and chief construction administrator at AHL (Architects of Hawaii Ltd.), for his field experience to expeditiously resolve conflicts with the design as they arose.

CAPTION: Outside of the fourth- and fifth-floor offices lie the IBEW’s fourth-floor lanai with tables, chairs for lunches or outdoor meetings, connected by a series of benches and planters. 

Photo Courtesy Nordic PCL

A New Take on Tradition

Learning continued during Constructors Hawaii’s renovations to Kamehameha Schools building


Kamehameha Schools’ project management team understood that the first-time renovation of the Kekelaokalani building on Kapalama campus could be fraught with fits and starts. The project, which ran from February 2021 to December 2021, faced several challenges: students in session, staff in offices and the relocation of a perpetually humming IT hub.

The $5.9-million project involved full gutting and renovation of the second and third floors (22,200 square feet). Included in the plans were a new media library center; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classrooms; and staff offices with audio-visual equipped conference rooms. The heavy lifting included removing a section of the third-floor suspended concrete slab for a new steel and glass staircase, featuring a wave of bamboo suspended from the third-floor ceiling to the second floor.

“The renovated Kekelaokalani building connects the contemporary innovation of the educational spaces to the traditional innovations of the fishpond,” says Project Manager Travis Higa of Constructors Hawaii Inc. “The space provides students a connection to the past, grounds them in their daily kuleana, inspires them to gather and sustain in the present and guides the students on their way into the future.”

Ferraro Choi and Associates Ltd.’s Bill Brooks, Jason Takeuchi and Kapua Pimentel are credited with designing the beautiful and unique space. Of the many subcontractors brought onboard by Ferraro Choi, it’s worth noting that Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative of the Kipahulu district of Maui was contracted to create the suspended bamboo wave that connects the second and third floors. The organic bamboo farm is an offshoot of the Ola Honua restoration and sustainability project. Its website describes the farmers as sharing the purpose of cultivating a deep respect and commitment to the care and regeneration of the land.

“Whispering Winds Bamboo is an employee-owned cooperative on Maui that was consulted with by the architectural firm that did the design work for the renovation,” says Ryan Zucco, president and a founding member of the co-op. “I think that got our foot in the door to provide the bamboo, and our expertise with bamboo got us the job. We have a 20-acre timber bamboo plantation that we harvest bamboo poles from and then pressure-treat with a borate solution. [For this project] we manufactured each piece with mounting hardware here on our farm and then shipped them over to do the installation. [Co-op member] Rich von Wellsheim and I did the installation in December, which took about four days for us to complete.”

The beautiful results feature stress-reducing rolling hills of turf conducive to both naps and study groups. A natural flow exists through the classrooms, gathering and seating areas, and onto the offices. Suspended from the open ceiling are acoustic baffles to isolate the sound in the different areas. Furniture is mid-century modern sleek and spare, and areas of built-in seating appear indestructible.

“All our subcontractors did an outstanding job on this project and were receptive to our schedule and coordination,” Higa says. “The attention to detail, planning and teamwork truly created a beautiful space for Kamehameha School’s elementary campus. Ferraro Choi was always responsive and collaborative throughout the project.”

Constructors Hawaii team members are credited with attention to detail and diligence in providing cost-effective solutions for potential problems early in the process. They rose to the challenge through constant professional communication with KS Project Management, KS Campus Operations and the design team.

Subcontractors For Kamehameha Schools Kekelaokalani Improvements

• Unitec Insulation

• Mutual Welding Co. Ltd.

• Whispering Winds Bamboo Cooperative

• Oahu Metal & Glazing LLC

• Eagle Interiors Inc.

• Tile Craft Inc.

• Honolulu Premier Flooring

• We Paint Inc.

• Waltz Engineering Inc.

• ForeverLawn Oahu

• Honolulu Fire Protection

• Skippy’s Plumbing and Repair Inc.

• Heide & Cook LLC

• Electricians Inc.

• JJS Construction Inc.

Suppliers and Vendors for Kamehameha Schools Kekelaokalani Improvements

• Waihona Builders Ltd.

• Island Pacific Distributors Inc.

• T&T Tinting Specialists

• Division X

• Contract Specialties in Hawaii

• Tactile/Braille Signs LLC

• Window World Inc.


Kekelaokalani – 06 – Gathering Space 2.jpg

A bamboo wave (subcontractor Whispering Winds Bamboo on Maui) begins on the third floor and reaches the second floor via the glass and steel stairway in Kekelaokalani elementary school building.

Kekelaokalani – 05 – Media Center.jpg

The media center in Kekelaokalani has rolling greens, small gathering areas, and audio baffles suspended from the ceiling to maintain calm and limit sounds to the areas directly below.

Travis Higa.jpg

Travis Higa

Ryan Zucco.jpg

Ryan Zucco

A Classy New Addition

A Waipahu school’s transformation by S&M Sakamoto brings new tech labs and sun-lit rooms


When Honowai Elementary School’s 700 students return from summer break on Aug. 1, their half-century-old campus will include a newly built, $14.4 million structure completed in July by general contractor S&M Sakamoto.

Honowai’s principal, Stacy Kawamura, is thrilled about the addition. “Our new building will provide dynamic and flexible spaces that will help our students to engage with lessons through greater activity and interaction,” she says.


The 18,117-square-foot structure has three floors. Level two houses classrooms for special-needs and medically fragile students. The first and third levels are for programs in art, music and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).

What’s also unique about the building is the open-air design. All three floors have lanai structures that allow classrooms to embrace natural light and mauka-to-makai breezes.

The music and art rooms also are adjacent to a patio, separated by stackable glass doors. “This extended learning space allows students to sketch and paint and play music outdoors, while still being supervised from the interior classroom,” explains Laura Knauss, principal of Lionakis, the architecture firm for the project.

“Many of the strategies for outdoor learning that were employed during the COVID-19 pandemic will be available to students and teachers in the new building,” she says.

Hybrid learning environments not only decrease potential spread of the coronavirus but also improve well-being and mental health of the children and teachers. “We cannot thank our legislators, leadership and facility staff enough for their support in making this project a reality for our students and our school community,” Kawamura says.


Support aside, Honowai’s new construction faced myriad challenges over the past three years.

The project lost five subcontractors, resulting from company closures, retirements, lackluster performance and bankruptcy. In addition, the “existing underground soil conditions required structural revision, which extended the project for a significant amount of time,” recalls Dale Sakamoto Yoneda, president of S&M Sakamoto.

To work through COVID-19 restrictions, daily communication was essential between field workers and Honowai School’s administrative team, Yoneda says. Construction crews also had to work around the school’s daily operations to ensure student safety.

It wasn’t the first time that construction crews were on campus for extended periods. In 2015, Honowai underwent energy-efficient upgrades, including 400 new photovoltaic modules and LED lighting, which cut the school’s electric bill by nearly 50 percent.

The retrofits, plus student programs to reduce its carbon footprint, earned the school a prestigious Green Ribbon School designation in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Education. Only a select number of schools nationwide receive the Green Ribbon title each year.

Today, Honowai’s new building lies on a slope on the northernmost corner of the campus, overlooking Honowai Street and neighboring Waipahu. Its completion is a testament to the partnership between private businesses and government entities.

“It took a community with grit and determination to see this project through to completion,” Yoneda says. “The support received from the DOE, Honowai’s administration, Lionakis and their consultants, our quality subcontractors, suppliers and especially our SMSI field crew was paramount in our success.”


4 side view.jpg

Windows and lanais at Honowai Elementary School are made of Resysta, a weather-resistant material that resembles wood.


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