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Renaissance Honolulu Hotel & Spa fills luxury niche in Kapiolani-Ala Moana area

Feb. 28—The Renaissance Honolulu Hotel & Spa, across from Ala Moana Center, opens today after a $505 million from-the-ground-up investment that is expected to enliven the district and fill gaps in Oahu's hotel market, which is mainly located in resorts.

The Renaissance Honolulu Hotel &Spa, across from Ala Moana Center, opens today after a $505 million from-the-ground-up investment that is expected to enliven the district and fill gaps in Oahu's hotel market, which is mainly located in resorts.

The 39-story tower at 1390 Kapiolani Blvd. includes 187 hotel rooms and suites and 112 individually owned hotel residences. The hotel, developed and owned by JL Capital, is managed by Highgate under a Marriott franchise. The property, which shares an amenity deck with the 390-unit Sky Ala Moana residential tower, comes with many firsts.

Tim Lee, CEO of JL Capital, said it's Oahu's first full-service hotel built from the ground up since the Prince Waikiki in 1990.

Lee said new hotels are incredibly difficult to build in Hawaii. This one was made possible because transit-oriented development resulted in up-zoned Kapiolani Boulevard parcels to allow hotels. He said having residential units in the Renaissance Residences program as well as the fully residential Sky Ala Moana also "helped with the capital stack."

He said market rate units in the Sky Ala Moana sold out two years prior to completion, and buyers closed in October.

Matt Grauso, general manager of the Renaissance Honolulu Hotel &Spa and the Renaissance Residences Honolulu, said the Renaissance Residences Honolulu, which sold for about $2, 500 a square foot, also sold out quickly.

Grauso said the property is getting lots of attention as it is the "first Renaissance Residences property in the world, and it's also the first Renaissance hybrid with a hotel and a Renaissance Residences."

Opening of the new hotel also returns the Renaissance brand to Hawaii. Marriott previously had a presence in Hawaii with its Renaissance brand in Wailea on Maui and at the Ilikai in Waikiki, but changes to those properties led to other operators taking over.

Kelly Sanders, president of Highgate Hawaii, said the property's location also "fills a big hole in the market."

Currently, the only other traditional hotels in the Kapiolani and Ala Moana corridor are the two-star Pagoda Hotel on Rycroft Street where online prices for March were advertised as starting at $169 a night or the three-star Ala Moana Hotel by Mantra on Atkinson Drive, where prices started at $209.

Rates at Renaissance Honolulu Hotel &Spa begin at about $350 per night ; however, can reach $3, 000 or so for a luxury two-­bedroom penthouse.

JL Capital, Marriott and Highgate have worked to build in extras that add value.

Lee said the shared amenity deck helped keep development costs down while allowing for the construction of a more luxurious and vast outdoor Sky Deck.

"We can over-program a bit there and offer a lot more than what most residential towers or even hotels can do, " he said.

Sanders said he thinks the hotel is the first in Hawaii with a hot-and cold-plunge Japanese "ofuro " tub that is part of the complimentary amenity package for guests.

"Guests have to book and pay for treatments at Uhiwai Spa, but use of the ofuro and sauna is included in the room price, " he said. "We don't charge resort fees, either."

Sanders said a partnership with TableOne Hospitality, led by renowned restaurateur Patric Yumul, has allowed the hotel to offer a curated food and beverage program, which includes the April opening of MARA, a 6, 700-square-foot Mediterranean restaurant, and more.

Some $1.25 million in artwork from Hiroshi Sugimoto graces the hotel's lobby walls, and Sig Zane collaborated on design elements and even designed staff uniforms. Floor-to-ceiling windows in every room provide bird's-eye views of nature's art.

Sanders said there is already early evidence that the hotel and hotel residences have hit the sweet spot.

"Demand has been great. We started selling three months ago, and we've already surpassed Marriott's opening goal from a revenue perspective, " he said.

Grauso said the Renaissance Residences Honolulu opened to owners in December, with the first official hotel guests arriving Friday.

"We are opening up with about 35 % occupancy the first week, but it jumps to 78 % the second week, so we are picking up quickly, " he said.

F. Kevin Aucello, founder and principal of Powell &Aucello, said he expects the project to succeed as it fills a gap in the market for an upscale hotel product for business travelers, conventioneers, those attending nearby events at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center and those who want to be near Kakaako, which has been enlivened by a growing residential population and plenty of new food and beverage and retail options.

"It will attract a lot of business clientele as it's outside of Waikiki, " he said. "Experienced travelers who have been to Honolulu a lot will probably like it. Kakaako is growing with plenty of restaurant options, and it's nice to be close to that area."

He opined that there is room for more hotels in the Kakaako-to-downtown sector, which includes Kapiolani Boulevard and the Ala Moana region. However, Aucello said finding sites might be challenging, especially in Kakaako, where the Hawai 'i Community Development Authority has strict regulations.

He said construction costs are high and that getting construction financing from lenders is challenging.

"The economics can be tough, so the next one in that area would probably be a limited-service hotel, "

Aucello said.