Kakaako redevelopment plan looks to the past to move forward
A pre-20th Century linear fish pond once owned by Victor Ward is the inspiration for an open-air plaza that's the centerpiece of redevelopment plans for 60 acres of Kakaako land owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation.
"We knew that in order to create something that's authentic, that feels like it belongs here in Kakaako, we needed to start from understanding what was here before us," said Nick Vanderboom, vice president of development for Howard Hughes.
The company presented its plans for the area during a Wednesday meeting of the Hawaii Community Development Authority. The proposal will transform the plot of land from Ward Centers to Ward Village over a 15-year period.
The Ward Village proposal mirrors a master plan approved by the HCDA before the land was transferred in Nov. 2010 from General Growth Properties to the Howard Hughes Corporation in a deal that brought GGP out of bankruptcy.
The ambitious project envisions 9.3 million square feet of mixed use development, including 1 million square feet of retail space, and two mixed-use residential towers on opposite corners of Auahi and Kamakee streets. There will also be one reserved housing tower at the corner of Ward Avenue and Halekauwila Street, and the IBM Building will be completely renovated. Twenty percent of the 4,000 residential units will be deemed affordable.
Instead of a 16,000 square foot floor plate, which is currently the standard for residential high-rises in Kakaako, new buildings will be about 25 percent narrower.
"Which allows us to pull the buildings back, and not feel like you're walking through a canyon of towers," said Vanderboom. "It creates more intimate buildings (with) fewer units per floor."
The entire build-out proposed by Howard Hughes is expected to create 9,000 jobs and add $1.25 billion of economic stimulus to the local economy. The project could also help keep taxes in check, as Oahu's tax base expands by an estimated $38 million every year.
"The project will no question create substantial, incremental property tax revenues (and) general excise tax revenues to the City and County of Honolulu and to the state of Hawaii," said Vanderboom.
However, some local residents worry about the potential impacts of high-density living, most notably traffic.
"I'm concerned about that with the density of your plan," said Ron Iwami, a member of the nonprofit group Friends of Kewalos.
Vanderboom assured Iwami the Howard Hughes Coporation would conduct a regional traffic study that would examine any and all alternatives to keep traffic flowing through the area, including turn pockets and the timing of traffic lights.
Howard Hughes expects to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2014, but must first receive HCDA approval. The company said it's also very close to gaining approval from the State Historic Preservation Division to begin archeological inventory surveys, which could identify any native Hawaiian burials.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, the head of the Oahu Island Burial Council, testified in support of the Kakaako proposal, saying the company has made a tremendous effort to reach out to various stakeholders in the area.
"They've listened quite intently and kicked it up several more notches," said Wong-Kalu. "Their insight and vision rival some of the best (developers) that we have here in Hawaii, so I look forward to great things from this project and the Howard Hughes Corporation."
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