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Fort Street Cafe: “What are we going to do next?”

    By Steven Gransky - News Editor. December 5, 2018 - 1:16 pm

Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) has recently announced its relocation plans for much of its downtown campus. Will there be a negative impact on the community?

The move from upper Fort Street has the potential for significant impact on some of the community. Students, staff and faculty who spend significant amounts of time in the area, inevitably end up spending money on food, coffee and other convenience items from local shops and food locations.

Xin Fang Ph.D, an associate professor of economics said the impact on businesses will likely be minor and that other office buildings will continue to support Fort Street business after the university moves.

At the recent Student Government Association town hall, the university relocation was one of the topics spoken about. When asked about the impact of the move on Fort Street businesses, Marites Mckee, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, downplayed the significance of the student presence on local business. “Remember, when you guys aren’t here in the summer, they somehow survive.”

La Mision Taqueria. Provided by Steven Gransky

Commentary from the university administration and the student body has been overwhelmingly positive in regards to the move. However, not everyone shares a positive outlook. When asked what he thought about McKee’s position, Steve Cho, owner of La Mision Taqueria said, “That’s exactly it, during the summer we’re just surviving. Students make up 25 to 30 percent of our business. That’s pretty significant.”

Cho explained that he notices variations in the number of students enrolled at the university from semester to semester, and how it reflects upon his overall customer volume. Therefore, a total loss of student business is going to have a huge impact. However, Cho is trying to stay positive about the situation. He’s hoping to be able to renegotiate his rent to help compensate for some of the business he expects to lose.

La Creperie Honolulu. Provided by Steven Gransky.

At La Creperie Honolulu, students can be seen outside working on assignments and socializing throughout the day. The owner Michelle Jordan, seemed the most concerned of the business owners who were interviewed. Jordan shared Cho’s view that the summertime is just about surviving until the fall semester brings the students back.

“My business is based around the students. They represent at least 70 percent of my customers and make up most of my staff too.”

Others on Fort Street express a similar outlook. Allison Chaleunxay, of Fort Street Cafe: Vietnamese and Thai Food, explained that about 35% of their business comes from HPU students. When told that the last classes on upper Fort Street would be during the spring 2019 semester, she expressed uncertainty for the future of their business. “We’re kind of worried. What are we going to do next?”

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