Time to Get ROC-ing

A new co-working center is set to change a block once associated with seedy dive bars. 

     Interview by Jeff Mull || Illustrations by Mark Lord Galacgac


Interview by Jeff Mull || Illustrations by Mark Lord Galacgac

There are big changes in the work for Hotel Street. In an area of the city that once housed a series of sketchy bars, new life is taking root. Ron McElroy, CEO of Real Office Centers, or ROC, is redeveloping a series of buildings into a new work/dine/ shop destination in Chinatown. Below, McElroy breaks down his plans.

What’s your background?

I’m deep into real estate these days, but I grew up in Southern California and would spend my summers here in Hawaii. I have some family over here. That’s when I got into surfing. I moved over to Hawaii and competed in a few pro surf contests and lived on the North Shore, but from there, I had to pay the bills so I got into real estate, which is where I cut my teeth and made my career. So Hawaii, and surfing, has always played a special role in my life, and I’m really excited to be coming back. 

So how would you describe the Real Office Center?

I had a pretty successful career in real estate and was able to create 15 different operations throughout Southern California and wound up selling that in 2007, before the market turned. Then I took a little time to step away and surf. But then the market went soft and I got back involved in real estate and began creating the Real Office Centers. We have lots of locations throughout Southern California that offer creative work spaces in an open-source environment. 

What made you want to open up a location in Chinatown?

I’ve been pretty good in picking my locations. We’re in all the best markets in Southern California. Downtown San Diego, La Jolla, Newport just to name a few. We’ve been successful in all of them and coming here to Honolulu was a big step, but we feel like it’s a great market with a lot potential. 


Do you have a grand vision for the neighborhood? 

I think this neighborhood has a lot of potential. I envision it as something similar to what you’re seeing in Venice Beach now. We go after the best buildings in the best markets, and we see a lot of potential in Chinatown. Our model is going after creative markets, and I think this area has so much potential. As this neighborhood gets cleaned up more, I’m really optimistic about its future.

So as far as the actual build out is concerned, how is it going to look? You’ve got a lot of open real estate.

We’ll have all of our offices on the top floor of the building. We’re looking to cater to incubators and accelerators programs and start-ups. The spaces are going to be mixed with individual offices and shared creative spaces. We’ll have tons of events, similar to what we do in our Santa Monica location. The bottom floor is going to be occupied by different restaurants and retail. 

How many spaces for restaurants or retail will open up on the ground floor?

We’re looking at about seven spaces on the bottom and about 50 companies on the top. So big things are happening, and we’re really looking forward to opening up the location soon. 

For more information, visit realofficecenters.com.


Lisa Yamada