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Howard Hughes to demolish Marukai building

It might only be a temporary grass lawn, but construction of a “central plaza” at Ward Village in Kakaako is slated to move forward by the end of this year with the demolition of several warehouse buildings.

Ward Village developer Howard Hughes Corp. announced Thursday that tenants in the warehouse buildings including Marukai and REAL a Gastropub will have to close in December to clear the land for the plaza.

The decision follows arguments Hughes Corp. made last month to a state agency, saying that it could only demolish the buildings and produce a temporary lawn that would later have to be closed to accommodate development of more condominium towers adjacent to the 3-acre central plaza.

The board of the Hawaii Community Development Authority decided in January to require that the central plaza, which Hughes Corp. committed to build in its “initial” phase, be created within two years or before the developer’s planned seventh condo tower, named ‘A‘ali‘i, can be occupied.

On Thursday, Hughes Corp. said it envisions the central plaza will be a gathering space and new home for its community events that include a farmers’ market, group yoga, outdoor movies, live entertainment and holiday ice rink.

“We look forward to introducing the central plaza to the community and providing an exciting new gathering place in the heart of Honolulu,” Todd Apo, vice president of community development for Ward Village, said in a statement. “The design and development process has begun to ensure that the central plaza is developed within the HCDA’s two-year time requirement.”

Hughes Corp. also announced that a low-rise office building called Ward Plaza at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Ward Avenue will be demolished by the end of this year because of increased expenses to maintain the building. Hughes Corp. had envisioned developing a 500-unit residential project on this site in 2020, but said Thursday that detailed timing for this project is not yet determined.

The developer has a master plan to develop what it envisions will be 16 towers with up to 4,300 residences and 1 million square feet of retail space on 60 acres formerly known as Ward Centers. To date, one tower called Waiea has been completed and three more — Anaha, Ae‘o and Ke Kilohana — are under construction. Three other towers — ‘A‘ali‘i and two that share the name Gateway — have been permitted but have yet to break ground. The Gateway towers will replace much of Ward Warehouse, which Hughes Corp. said last month would close in August and displace roughly 60 tenants.

HCDA calculated that all the permitted or completed projects at Ward Village represent 44 percent of building density allowed under the developer’s master plan.

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