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Aloha Oi International Marketplace

International Marketplace of Waikiki Closed!

While the many vendor stalls and wagons may still sit in their usual spots, the vendors and merchandise that once made the International Marketplace a favorite of many visitors and locals alike – are gone.  December 31,  2013 marked the last day  for this iconic location and while there are a few storefronts still open along Kalakaua Avenue, they too, will close their doors for the final time at the end of January.

For those who may not have been aware, the Queen Emma Foundation, owners of the land, has opted to replace the International Marketplace with an upscale mall, anchored by Saks.  Viewed from a strictly economic view, this decision makes sense in terms of the increase in dollars that will be generated which can be put to use towards the Queen Medical Center’s west facility.  You can read more about this controversial decision here in an earlier post.

My kids used to always look forward to spending a couple of hours navigating the carts and stores, looking for hidden bargains away from the glitz and glamor of Waikiki.  I think that was the attraction of the International Marketplace for the majority of people.  With its demise, we lose another uniquely Hawaiian experience.

There may even be a small number of people who would say that the removal of the aged International Marketplace is a good thing from an aesthetics point of view.  And, yes, many of the structures were long over do to be replaced, but the true value of this iconic shopping area is probably more nostalgic than practical.  It represents a simpler time before Waikiki became a concrete, metal, and glass jungle, when the Pink Castle (aka Royal Hawaiian Hotel) was a visible landmark…from the street, not just the ocean.

If its any consolation, it is my understanding that both the Monkeypod tree and the International Marketplace sign will be spared and will be incorporated into the new mall landscaping.  I wonder it they’ll also keep the koi pond?

International Marketplace Sign

International Marketplace Sign

I guess this is more of a personal loss for many of us who will miss this Waikiki landmark, but I do believe that more people will miss this more laid-back venue than those who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Saks.  The cost of progress seems disproportionately high, but economics rule.  It just seems Waikiki has turned into just another shopping mecca, similar to many of those found throughout the US…except, of course, for the tropical setting.

I guess we should be happy that the Pink Palace and the Hilton Rainbow Tower still stand as Waikiki landmarks.  Hopefully, they will remain recognizable for the foreseeable future.

Aloha oi International Marketplace!  You can look for the new mall and Saks sometime in 2015.

Update:  The new projected opening date for the new upscale mall is spring 2016.

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