Sometimes all it takes is a little buffing up of a single building to make the difference.
A restoration of the iconic Wo Fat Building could serve as a catalyst in a makeover of Honolulu’s Chinatown, developers said.
The proposed $10 million restoration of the 86-year-old landmark is expected to include a cafeteria-style restaurant and 23-room hotel, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.
The building along Honolulu’s historic Hotel and Maunakea streets for decades had the main dining halls for one of the largest and most prestigious Chinese banquet restaurants on the island.
Investment group Mighty Wo Fat LLC presented its plan for the building’s renovation at a public hearing last week as part of a request for a Chinatown Special District Design permit.
Acting Planning Director Kathy Sokugawa has until Jan. 21 to decide whether to approve the permit request.
The property was purchased for $4 million in July 2017. The owners want to receive National Historic Register designation that would make the building eligible for federal tax credits, they said.
“We’re going to restore all of the hand-painting where we can just to bring back the original feel of the place,” said John Davenport, Mighty Wo Fat team project manager.
Previous owners allowed the building to become a nightclub, and its proprietors painted over distinctive artwork that adorned ceilings and columns. The building’s multi-colored, stained-glass windows were painted black.
“It’s going to be interesting to see if that can be brought back or not,” said historian Don Hibbard, a member of the project team.
Mighty Wo Fat’s parent company, the Mighty Union, is known for restoring historical buildings.
“We’re going to give it energy, we’re going to give it a new heartbeat and we’re going to ride this baby for another 100 years,” Davenport said.
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Photo credit: A restoration of the iconic Wo Fat Building (pictured here) could serve as a catalyst in a makeover of Honolulu's Chinatown. Jasperdo / Flickr