Kamehameha Schools to Transition Royal Hawaiian Center to a Ground Lease

Kamehameha Schools announced today its intent to offer for sale the buildings at Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikīkī while retaining ownership of the underlying lands. This decision is part of the Trust’s proactive strategy to optimize the growth and perpetuity of the endowment that supports Kamehameha Schools’ educational mission.

Royal Hawaiian Center
“The transition of the Royal Hawaiian Center from a fully owned Kamehameha Schools property to one where Kamehameha Schools retains our lands but sells its improvements greatly strengthens and diversifies our perpetual endowment. This is aligned with our 2000-2015 Strategic Plan, which calls for active stewardship of our lands while optimizing the value and use of current financial and nonfinancial resources in support of our educational mission,” explained CEO Dee Jay Mailer. “With this decision, we are able to keep and care for our lands while using the funds from its improvements to benefit our children’s futures in perpetuity.“

Over the past 10 years, Kamehameha Schools has spent more than $2.6 billion on education in Hawai’i. Educational programs, collaborations and other activities supported by Kamehameha Schools serve more than 47,000 learners and families each year. In addition to operating private schools, Kamehameha serves as the largest private funder of public education in Hawaii.

“A successful sale of these improvements would reduce risk to our Endowment through greater diversification. It would create better balance in our overall portfolio,” said Elizabeth Hokada, Kamehameha Schools’ Vice President for Endowment. “The thriving business at Royal Hawaiian Center should continue as usual under a Kamehameha Schools ground lease, similar to the successful ground lease Kamehameha has with the neighboring Royal Hawaiian Hotel.”

Royal Hawaiian Center, the premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination in Waikīkī, is located on a 6.3 acre parcel along a three-block stretch of famed Kalākaua Avenue. The Center comprises just over 322,000 square feet of leasable area with more than 110 shops and restaurants. A unique 30,000 square foot cultural venue, The Royal Grove, is reminiscent of Waikīkī’s historic Helumoa coconut grove. The Center was built in 1979 and underwent a renovation in 2005.

“Should this transition take place, it will in no way diminish our commitment to the stewardship of Helumoa, an ancestral home of our beloved founder, Bernice Pauahi Bishop,” CEO Mailer said. “Helumoa is a special place for us – a wahi pana that we cherish. This ‘āina sustained our ancestors as a place of peace, friendship, relaxation and healing. Today and for generations to come, under Kamehameha’s care, Helumoa will remain that place of peace and aloha for our people, as it provides the gifts of educational funding and rich cultural experiences that fulfill the vision of our benefactor.”

Mailer emphasized that Kamehameha Schools will still own and steward the lands of Helumoa. And as Kamehameha Schools considers potential buyers for the buildings of the Royal Hawaiian Center, the organization will seek those who understand and value the historic and cultural importance of this place. Their commitment to the vision for Helumoa will be an important factor in the decision-making process.