Saturday, June 18, 2011

Behind The Waikiki Edition: The Ilikai Story

Before it was The Waikiki Edition the building on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Hobron Lane in Honolulu, Hawaii was dubbed the Yacht Harbor Tower in the 1960s. It served as an annex to the Ilikai Hotel which opened in 1964.

For almost three decades the 782-room Ilikai hotel remained an icon marking the entryway to Waikiki. Thanks to the original television series version of "Hawaii Five-0" (1968-1980) the hotel made a weekly appearance as Jack Lord (in the role of Steve McGarrett) stood on a penthouse balcony in the opening credits. The same sequence is repeated in the updated CBS series (2010) starring Alex O'Loughlin. Videos of both openings posted below.

As one of the first luxury high-rise hotel in Hawaii, the property attracted celebrities and political dignitaries to locals attending functions in the 15,000 square foot ballroom. The hotel is recognized for its distinctive Y-shape tower with aqua blue accent railings and the glass elevator which whisks visitors to the top floor (now Sarento's On Top of "I" restaurant). The designer of the hotel, John Graham, also designed Seattle's Space Needle.

The hotel lost much of its luster in the 1980s as newer more luxurious hotels opened in Waikiki and on the neighbor islands. In what appeared would be a rebirth in 2000, the two towers (Ilikai and Yacht Harbor Tower) were reflagged under the Marriott banner and renamed the Renaissance Ilikai Hotel. An extensive multi-million makeover of all guestrooms and public areas revitalized the property. It should be noted the original developer of the hotel sold the property to Marriott in 1974.

By 2006, Marriott no longer owned the property and the hotel was operated independently with no affiliation. A $40-$60 million dollar renovation never materialized and the new owner faced foreclosure. Retail and restaurant tenants closed their operations at the Ilikai during this turmoil. In 2009, New York-based iStar Financial acquired the hotel and owns the 203 hotel rooms which today are managed by Aqua Hotels and Resorts as the Ilikai Hotel & Suites. The remaining rooms are individually owned as condominium units.

The Ilikai (left) and former Yacht Harbor Tower (right).
(image: The Honolulu Advertiser file photo)
The same year the Yacht Harbor Tower portion of the Ilikai was purchased by San Diego-based development firm eRealty Companies for $80 million. ERealty promptly closed the 360-room tower and cut off the connection with the Ilikai which included the shuttering of a wedding chapel and Tanaka of Tokyo restaurant on its ground floor.

As early as 2007, Marriott announced its partnership with hotel developer Ian Schrager and plans to open hotels under the new Edition brand. It is guessed that about this time is when Marriott partnered with the new owners of the YHT.

The plans for the Edition brand was a worldwide rollout of openings in Paris, Madrid, Miami and Los Angeles. Due the the change in the economic climate, those openings failed to materialize. The refurbishment of the Yacht Harbor Tower in early 2010 to transform the property into the Waikiki Edition would be the first hotel under the new Marriott brand. Click HERE to see photos (such as the one below) of the construction of the Waikiki Edition.

This is one of a series of posts about the Waikiki Edition. Click HERE to view the full series of posts.

Construction of the entrance to the Waikiki Edition.


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