The owner of Ward Centers yesterday said it remains committed to a long-term plan for redeveloping the 60-acre retail complex in Kakaako into a dense urban village.
General Growth Properties gave no timetable for starting work on the project envisioned for up to 20 high-rise buildings, but said its anticipated emergence from bankruptcy next month puts the company in a good position to move forward.
Chicago-based General Growth, which is the nation’s second-largest shopping center owner and the owner of Ala Moana Center, expects to emerge from Chapter 11 reorganization as two separate companies.
One company will own and operate shopping malls, including Ala Moana. The other company will focus on developing master-planned communities and mixed-use projects, including the Kakaako project known as Ward Neighborhood.
Chris Curry, chief development officer of TPMC Realty Corp., a Dallas-based firm retained by new General Growth investors to manage development properties, including Ward Centers, said there’s no timetable for moving forward with Ward Neighborhood. But he said the recapitalization of General Growth bodes well for the project.
"We’re very excited about this asset," he said.
Curry said that starting work on Ward Neighborhood would be driven by market forces. "It’ll happen as soon as it can be built as financially feasible," he said.
Curry made his comments yesterday in a presentation to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency governing development in Kakaako.
At the meeting, the agency’s board approved a development agreement that better defines and formalizes a 2009 master plan for Ward Neighborhood.
General Growth originally anticipated starting redevelopment this year, but that timetable was upset by the recession and financial market crisis that pulled General Growth into bankruptcy in April 2009 after the company couldn’t refinance debt.
The Ward Neighborhood plan envisions as many as 4,300 residential units spread among 20 buildings, with some as high as 400 feet and five positioned along Ala Moana opposite the Kewalo Basin commercial boat harbor. Of the residential units, 860 will be reserved for rent or sale at moderate prices under HCDA rules.
Retail would continue to be a major presence, with space for about 400 retail tenants, up from about 300 today. The project also includes three landscaped pedestrian plazas covering about 5 acres, 9,600 parking spaces, 700,000 square feet of industrial space, and a connection to a mass-transit station planned by the city in the vicinity.
The project over time would replace all existing structures in the area bounded by Ala Moana, Queen Street, a cluster of blocks just Ewa of Ward Avenue, and the IBM Building. Everything in the area — including Ward Warehouse, Ward Centre and Ward Entertainment Center — would be redeveloped except for a new 850-stall parking garage and retail space previously slated to become a Whole Foods Market.
General Growth in July resumed construction of the roughly $160 million parking and retail addition after an 18-month stoppage due to financial problems.
Under the Ward Neighborhood master plan, General Growth has 15 years from January 2009 to complete as much of the plan as it can under present HCDA development rules.
Any future changes to agency rules, including height limits and open space requirements, would apply to unbuilt portions of the Ward plan after Jan. 14, 2024.