Regulator approves $1.3 billion addition to Ward Village
Repost the Star Advertiser 5/7/21
By Andrew Gomes
May 6, 2021
COURTESY HOWARD HUGHES CORP. Rendering of The Ualana Ward Village, above. The condominium tower has received approval by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
COURTESY HOWARD HUGHES CORP. Rendering of The Park Ward Village luxury tower. The condominium tower has received approval by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
Next 1 / 2 A state board approved plans for two more condominium towers in Kakaako on Wednesday despite a little reluctance over some project aspects. Directors of the Hawaii Community Development Authority board gave the go-ahead for Howard Hughes Corp. to produce 1,243 homes between two very different towers at its expanding master-planned Ward Village community. One tower, dubbed The Park Ward Village, would continue the main trend of luxury towers rising in the neighborhood, with 546 units next to a central public park that will be expanded as part of this estimated $620 million project. The second tower, dubbed Ulana Ward Village and estimated to cost $409 million, is designed to satisfy all existing and future requirements for Hughes Corp. to make 20% of housing at Ward Village affordable to moderate-income households by putting 697 units on a parcel Ewa of what so far has been the core of Ward Village where most condos have sold for $1 million and up. John Whalen, a former city planning official serving as HCDA board chairman, abstained from the vote on the Park Ward development permit because he found no regulatory grounds on which to base a dissenting vote that diverged from seven approving votes. Whalen, however, registered displeasure with Hughes Corp. concentrating nearly all its below-market housing, which includes the existing Ke Kilohana condo tower, on the Ewa or western side of Ward Avenue. “I do have to register my disappointment at the lack of affordable housing east of Ward Avenue,” he said. “It is an emerging pattern that the housing that is being built east of Ward Avenue is mostly — almost exclusively — market rate or luxury housing.” This point was discussed during an HCDA public hearing on the two tower plans in March. Representatives of Texas-based Hughes Corp. in March said the Ulana site, which is bordered by Auahi, Kamani and Pohukaina streets one block Ewa of Ward Avenue, is a prime location that will have a fenced 40,000-square-foot park exclusively for residents of the tower as well as a 30,000-square-foot public park. The company said trying to produce a condo tower suitable for households that have highly divergent incomes can create problems that include vying factions to control the homeowner association board and expensive amenities that one group desires and the other group can’t afford. Hughes Corp. also said delivering all of its remaining required moderate-price housing sooner to meet a critical housing need is a major community benefit compared with delivering such homes in smaller increments over many years. Ward Village is slated to eventually contain 4,500 homes spread over 16 towers, of which Park Ward and Ulana would be the eighth and ninth. The first Ward Village tower, Waiea, was completed in 2016 and nearly sold out with a $3.6 million average unit price not including two grand penthouses offered for $35 million and $36 million. Average condo prices at Ward Village’s next two towers were $1.2 million at Anaha and $1 million at Ae‘o, the latter of which includes a Whole Foods Market store. Ke Kilohana opened in 2019 with 375 units reserved for moderate-income households and 48 market-price units. Most unit prices in this tower ranged from roughly $300,000 to $600,000. Ward Village’s fifth tower, ‘A‘ali‘i, is close to completion. This 752-unit tower described as a luxury project with smaller units includes 150 moderate-priced condos. The sixth and seventh towers, Ko‘ula and Victoria Place, are under construction with average unit prices around or over $1 million. Reina Miyamoto, executive director of the nonprofit Hawaii HomeOwnership Center, which helps first-time homebuyers, encouraged HCDA to approve plans for the next two towers. “We need a lot of opportunities on the housing ladder,” she said during Wednesday’s meeting, adding that Ulana will be a nice opportunity for people to get into home ownership. Most other public testimony was from construction industry organizations supporting the two projects. Lorraine Minatoishi, a Ke Kilohana resident, told HCDA’s board that the mixed-income makeup of residents in her building elevates the property and would be good at Ulana. Minatoishi said the plan for Ulana scares her because some elements such as an adjacent parking garage separated from the tower, fencing and high density resemble a New York low-income public housing tower. Russell Won, another Ke Kilohana resident who owns Ginza Sushi at Ward Village, expressed support for the latest Hughes Corp. plan. HCDA’s vote on Ulana was unanimous, though board member Wei Fang offered a “reluctant yes” because the parking structure, which also would include commercial and light industrial business space, will be permitted to rise 75 feet instead of adhering to HCDA’s 45-foot limit. HCDA has granted similar increases for such structures that are typically part of a tower’s base.