Restoration planned for Chinatown building

HONOLULU (AP) — A group of investors is planning a $10 million restoration to an iconic building in Honolulu’s historic Chinatown district that is expected to include a new restaurant and boutique hotel.

Details of the project were published last week in an environmental assessment by the state, outlining plans to restore and reuse the three-story Wo Fat building, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

Mighty Wo Fat, a partnership led by a Texas real estate investor and involving former University of Hawaii head football coach June Jones, is undertaking the project. The group bought the building for $4 million last year.

The project aims to bring back nightlife to Chinatown. Plans for the 80-year-old building include a restaurant, bar, coffee bar and up to 24 hotel rooms, according to the report.

“The opening of the restaurant on the ground floor of the Wo Fat Building will add to Chinatown’s vibrant and growing restaurant district and help to attract people to downtown after dark,” the group said in the report.

The investors intend to maintain the exterior cultural appearance, remove some modern additions and restore some previously altered elements. If a hotel isn’t viable, the rooms could become dormitory housing.

A concept for the restaurant has not yet been chosen, said John Davenport, the lead investor and principal from Austin, Texas.

For decades, the building housed the Wo Fat restaurant, which was one of the longest-standing restaurants in Hawaii. It closed in 1994.

The developer will honor the history of the building, which is valuable to Honolulu’s Chinese community, said Dean Sakamoto, an architect working on the project.

“Wo Fat has a lot of meaning to them,” he said.

The state Historic Preservation Division has reviewed and signed off on the design plans. Depending on the progression of the plans, work could begin in April and finished by 2020.