Wo Fat’s namesake is to be restored

James MacArthur and Emme Tomimbang, outside of the Wo Fat restaurant in Honolulu during a 1996 television special.

A landmark structure in Honolulu, the former Wo Fat restaurant, is to be restored and redeveloped, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.

Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman used the name of the of the Chinese restaurant for the arch villain who would oppose lawman Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord).

Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, made his first appearance in the 1968 Five-O pilot. Initially, Wo Fat was a Chinese agent. After the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations in the 1970s, Wo Fat went independent.

Regardless, Wo Fat took on McGarrett a number of times during the 12-year run of the show. The 1980 series finale brought back Wo Fat one last time.

A rebooted series that began in 2010 (with the spelling Five-0) had its own version of Wo Fat. The second version of the character was killed off in the 100th episode of that series. That installment aired in 2014.

Here’s an excerpt of the Star Advertiser story that describes developer plans to convert the restaurant for multiple uses:

The Wo Fat project calls for a cafeteria-style eatery and some retail on the ground floor along historic Hotel and Maunakea streets, and a 23-room boutique hotel on the second and third floors in what for decades served as the main dining halls for one of the largest and most prestigious Chinese banquet restaurants on the island.

The 86-year-old building was acquired by new owners in 2017, the newspaper said. The restoration project will cost an estimated $10 million. The Star Advertiser described some of the problems involved with the project.

It’s not a simple undertaking. In the early 2000s, the former owners of the building allowed it to become a nightclub and its proprietors decided to paint over the distinctive artwork that adorned the ceilings and columns, as well as the building’s unique, multi-­colored stained-glass windows — with black.

The development group spearheading the project is named Mighty Wo Fat LLC.