Where is Midtown Ala Moana? [Updated]

UPDATE [April 24, 2019]: Historically this area was known as Kalia. Sounds like a perfectly good name to me. See the end of this post for details.

Midtown Ala Moana is “considered a haven for foodies,” a draw for “fashionistas,” and home to The Republik nightclub, Like Like Drive Inn, and Shokudo restaurant. “Here you can start the day lying on sandy shores at Ala Moana Beach Park and end it with a night on the town singing karaoke or swaying to the sound of visiting bands,” according to MidtownAlaMoana.com.

In a stylish video produced by the Azure Ala Moana luxury condo development, Midtown Ala Moana is characterized as “the heartbeat of Honolulu,” the “vibrant urban backdrop” to a “metropolitan lifestyle.” Located between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, local social media guru Melissa Chang says Midtown Ala Moana “looks like a very young, contemporary neighborhood, but there’s actually a lot of history here.”

Where is “here,” exactly?

Fortunately, MidtownAlaMoana.com provides a neighborhood map of Midtown Ala Moana. It’s centered along Kapiolani Boulevard between Pensacola Street to the west (beyond that would be Kakaako) and Kalakaua Avenue to the east (bordering Waikiki), and stretches as far mauka as South King Street (just brushing up against the Capitol District, Makiki, and McCully). The north-south spine of Midtown Ala Moana is Keeaumoku Street, and its center would appear to be the intersection of Keeaumoku Street and Rycroft Street, where Azure Ala Moana is being built.

The brochure for Azure Ala Moana colors it all in even more clearly, adding in a dozen blocks at the top to reach Beretania Street and swallowing half of Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island to create what is labeled the “Midtown Ala Moana District.”

“An unspoken hotspot for Honolulu residents now has a name,” declares MidtownAlaMoana.com.

And if you don’t believe the website, there’s @midtownalamoana on Instagram and @midtownalamoana on Twitter and Midtown Ala Moana on Facebook.

As a former resident of Keeaumoku Street — albeit along the portion you’d describe as being in Makiki — I’d always just described this area as Ala Moana, Keeaumoku, or “Koreamoku.” (The notices in our apartment building were posted in Korean, and I always wondered what news I was missing.) Without going back into native Hawaiian history, I suppose one might think that this neighborhood needed a more formal name.

But the time, energy, and money being put into branding the area as Midtown Ala Moana is fascinating. The neighborhood is very clearly being positioned as the more urban, metropolitan alternative to Kakaako (which has its own seven-figure branding campaign).

If Midtown Ala Moana sticks as a neighborhood name, at least its origins won’t be lost to the mists of time. The domain name was registered in July 2018, and the first social posts hit the web in August and September. And the name has already been helpfully added to the Wikipedia entry about the area.

The question is, whose brand is Midtown Ala Moana? Is it a creation of the developers of the Azure condominium? (It seems to be most often affiliated with them.) Or something jointly promoted by several developers with projects in the area? There’s a circle-R registered mark on the apparently official Midtown Ala Moana logo, so is it a trademarked term? There’s nothing registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so far.

I guess we’ll find out if and when area businesses start adopting Midtown Ala Moana into their names.

UPDATE: Jared Kuroiwa reminded me on Facebook that this area used to be called Kalia, posting a map from 1897:

Kalia is the name of one of the hotel towers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Even better, I’d forgotten that I documented the architecture of Honolulu’s flagship Walgreens store at the corner of Keeaumoku Street and Kapiolani Boulevard, which is officially called “Walgreens at Kalia”:

If corporate giants like Hilton and Walgreens could look up and adopt the historical name of this area, why couldn’t the ostensibly local developers of Azure Ala Moana?

[Hat tip: Audrey McAvoy]

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