Howard Hughes Corporation Shifts to Build for Families in Kaka'ako

Aug 7, 2017

Kekilohana, reserved housing tower, being built by Howard Hughes Corporation on Ward Avenue across from the old Sports Authority complex. The tower is scheduled to open in 2019.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The first high-rise condominium in Ward Village was completed almost a year ago and is transforming the once light-industrial Kaka’ako District.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

Little children run around in the shaded playground area at Kolowalu Park on the corner of Queen and Waimanu Streets in Kaka’ako.  It’s a popular attraction for residents like, Jessica Stack, a school teacher and millennial mom in her early 30’s with two young sons.

“This is baby Will, 7 weeks and Wes, 3 years old.”

Stack says Kolowalu Park is an urban necessity in Kaka’ako.

Jessica Stack holding son, Will, 7 months old while older brother Wes looks on. They visit Kolowalu Park regularly.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“When I first moved in, we were here almost every day because he loved to get around and we live in an apartment so it’s nice to have somewhere for him to run and climb and all of that.  So more green-spaces would be even better.”

And the Howard Hughes Corporation is planning to do that, tear down the now closed Ward Warehouse and build a 4-acre green-space to be called the Central Plaza.  It will be a large public gathering place in Ward Villages, a 60-acre planned urban community.  Vice President for Community Development, Todd Apo, says this urban lifestyle is in an evolutionary stage but is here to stay.

“Right now it’s tough for a lot of us to think growing up in an urban community because it really hasn’t existed for Hawai’i.  It’s gonna take some of that generational change but it’s gonna bring the families.  It’s gonna be a part of what we are.  Our population’s gonna continue to grow and we need to provide these solutions to the transportation situations that exist today.  And this lifestyle allows you to do that.”

Hawai’i Community Development Authority Board chair, John Whalen, says parks are democratic in that everyone goes there regardless of socio-economic status.  And, in time, Kaka’ako will evolve.

“This building that’s taking place now is really not the end state.   I mean, there’ll be further changes to Kaka’ako as time goes on and I believe the future residents of Kaka’ako will want to make it their own in some way.  So that what we see today is not necessarily what we’ll see 20 years from now or 25 years from now.  At least that’s my hope.”

Kolowalu Park on the corner of Queen and Waimanu Streets in Kaka'ako.

Real Estate broker, Patrick McMillen, says Kaka’ako developers are shifting to more affordable housing options but they should keep in mind that families need more space.

“If they really want to have local people come in and live in these communities in Kaka’ako, then it has to be something that they can afford.  And if they want them to come in with families, you know, you need to build 2 bedrooms or 3 bedroom units so people can bring their kids and, you know, have a place for them to sleep.  And also recreation areas.”

Apo says Howard Hughes Corporation is committed to bringing local families to Kaka’ako.

“It’s this community where a luxury tower is a block-and-a-half away from our reserve housing tower.  But I think that diversity and that mix is gonna make this place exciting.  Again, it’s not something that we’ve necessarily seen in Hawai’I before.”

Millennial mom and school teacher, Stack, is an early adopter of the urban lifestyle but is not completely sold on Kaka’ako.

“The traffic is a little bit challenging at the end of the day coming back from Niu Valley but other than that, you know, it’s pretty good, other wise.  I don’t know, I’ part of that boat continuing to wait and see (haha).  We’ll see what happens, right?”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.