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State weighs plan for new luxury condo tower at Ward Village in Kakaako

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    Landscape shot of the site for the next tower at Ward Village. This luxury tower is planned on the Diamondhead half of the site where Ward Warehouse once stood.

Fantastic ocean views are envisioned at the latest planned luxury condominium tower at Ward Village in Kakaako, but a few critical views also were expressed at a public hearing Wednesday to discuss the $374 million project called Victoria Place.

The developer, Howard Hughes Corp., defended its application to build its seventh Kakaako tower — and fourth tower with an average unit price of over $1 million — at the hearing held by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency in charge of Kakaako development.

HCDA board member David Rodriguez, representing the state Department of Transportation, noted that most Ward Village condos are for the luxury market and suggested that it would be better for Hughes Corp. to build more affordable housing sooner than HCDA requires while not segregating such homes and gentrifying sections of Ward Village.

Hughes Corp. said it isn’t asking to deviate from any zoning rules and suggested that there’s no good reason to deny a development permit for the project.

Race Randle, senior vice president of development in Hawaii for Texas-based Hughes Corp., said most of the moderate-priced homes required by HCDA in connection with Victoria Place have already been built and sold at Ke Kilohana, a tower that opened earlier this year on Ward Avenue.

Ke Kilohana included 48 of the 70 moderate-priced homes that need to be produced if Victoria Place is approved. Under HCDA rules that apply to Ward Village, these moderate-priced homes have to be under construction within two years of Victoria Place being completed.

Hughes Corp. has a master plan to build 15 towers with about 4,500 homes plus 1 million square feet of retail on 60 acres that used to be a mix of mainly retail and industrial buildings known as Ward Centers. HCDA rules require that 20% of homes in projects that rise above 45 feet be affordable to moderate-income residents.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first of two public hearings on the development permit application for Victoria Place submitted in July.

Regarding the issue of gentrification, Randle said Hughes Corp. has mixed some affordable homes with higher-priced units in its ‘A‘ali‘i tower under construction now, but he also said such mixing can be problematic because maintenance fees in luxury towers may not be affordable to moderate-income buyers who qualify for affordable homes.



Howard Hughes Corp.’s seventh tower in the Ward Village development features*:


Stories in height


Units in the tower


Cost of the project

Over $1M

Average unit price

If HCDA approves a permit for Victoria Place, Hughes Corp. aims to start sales early next year and start construction in the third quarter of 2020 if sales are strong enough.

*Preliminary figures

Hughes Corp. is proposing to include the 22 still- required affordable homes tied to Victoria Place in a future project also containing 86 affordable units that need to be produced in connection with a tower called Koula that began construction earlier this year. These 108 affordable homes would be ewa of Ward Avenue where the moderate-priced Ke Kilohana tower was built.

The other five Ward Village towers are on the Diamond Head side of Ward. The site for Victoria Place fronts Ala Moana Boulevard on a portion of land where the retail complex Ward Warehouse once stood.

Another criticism raised at Wednesday’s meeting was from HCDA board Chairman John Whalen who noted that Hughes Corp. eliminated an envisioned restaurant and cafe with outdoor seating from the mauka side of Victoria Place fronting Auahi Street.

Hughes Corp.’s master plan for Ward Village describes Auahi as becoming a pedestrian-oriented boulevard “ideal for strolling, window shopping and outdoor dining” and a “green urban promenade and principal shopping spine.”

Whalen said the mauka side of Victoria Place is mostly a plain facade with no commercial spaces inviting pedestrians, much like the neighboring ultra-luxury Waiea tower.

“It turns its back on what was supposed to be a principal street,” he said. “It is in effect a blank wall. There’s no activity there.”

Randle said much of the commercial space at Ward Village has been concentrated on the mauka side of Auahi, including the movie theater, restaurants and Nordstrom Rack, and that the community’s central public park space fronts Auahi. Both of these elements, he said, deliver on the design concept for making Auahi a pedestrian- oriented promenade.

One added benefit from Victoria Place will be more of that park space on the makai side of Auahi, and this park space will better align with a larger mauka piece of the park that enhances mauka-makai views, Randle added.

The plan for Victoria Place replaces a project previously approved by HCDA for two towers that Hughes Corp. canceled after slow sales for units in the first tower.

The prior project called Gateway Towers included a 28-story tower with 123 units and a 35-story tower with 113 units separated by park space.

Victoria Place is designed to be about 40 stories with 350 units, or 114 more units than the Gateway towers. As a result, Hughes Corp. plans to enlarge the makai portion of Victoria Ward Park by about 10,000 square feet.

Hughes Corp. has not disclosed estimated condo sale prices for Victoria Place, but previously said residences will have appointments on par with units in Waiea, where prices for 174 considerably larger units averaged $3.6 million.

If HCDA approves a permit for Victoria Place, Hughes Corp. aims to start sales early next year followed by construction in the third quarter of 2020 if sales are strong enough.

HCDA could decide on the permit application at its next public hearing at 1 p.m. Oct. 2.

Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect figure in a graphic stating the average unit price for Victoria Place.
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