GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hokua resident Carol Mazuk, in her living room with an ocean view, says the development is "like a subdivision, only we're vertical."
The luxury condo Hokua provides residents with convenience and a genuine sense of community
Ian MacNaughton has what many would consider an ideal life. He lives in the new luxury condominium Hokua, and works just minutes from his home. Soon, offices for the MacNaughton Group -- along with four other companies -- will be completed on the second floor of Hokua, reducing his commute to about 45 seconds.
The 28-year-old financial analyst moved back to Hawaii from San Francisco about six months ago. He runs in Ala Moana Beach Park across the street, surfs the breaks he can evaluate from his living room, and walks to restaurants, shops and movie theaters. There's little reason for him to start his car.
"This is much more similar to a San Francisco lifestyle," he said. "Ward is becoming that."
Indeed, the entire Kakaako area -- an afterthought for many local residents a decade ago -- has become a model of multigenerational urban village living. Shops, restaurants, theaters, parks, the beach and public transportation all are within walking distance of a series of high-rise condominiums boasting the amenities of five-star hotels. When completed, additions such as Whole Foods next to the 247-unit Hokua will further idealize the "live, work, play" model.
The Victoria Ward area has evolved over the last eight years into an epicenter of entertainment, according to Dean McPhail, chief executive of Restaurant Partners Hawaii and JJC Hawaii, which own and operate P.F. Chang's China Bistro and the Jamba Juice smoothie stores. One particular strength is that no single demographic defines the region. "Our Jamba Juice does great," and that targets 16- to 36-year-olds, said McPhail. Starbucks tends to attract a slightly older group, and "Chang's is for everybody," just like the movie theaters, which draw a broad range of people.
"It's a new style of urban living," said Kathy Inouye, chief operating officer of the Kobayashi Group and a resident of Hokua. "Hawaii people ... we're so tied to our cars. But now I will walk anywhere around Ward."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hokua general manager Duane Komine, left, and fellow staffer Davie Felipe stand outside the luxury high-rise.
Inouye, who helped develop Hokua in a partnership of the Kobayashi Group, the MacNaughton Group and A&B Properties, said they visited similar communities in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Las Vegas during the planning process. Hokua was the first of several high-end condominium projects to open in the area, and a new project called Capitol Place, on Queen Emma Street, will take the Hokua concept downtown.
"We were striving for an upscale 'move down' community, primarily targeted to baby boomers," said Inouye. In other words, people like Inouye and her husband, who sent the kids off to college and wanted to move out of their large, single-family home into a condominium -- without losing storage space, convenience and plenty of options for visiting adult children.
"The kids love it here," said Inouye. "They all meet at our place. Our house was like Grand Central Station when we lived in Kahala, and it still is." It helps that Hokua has fully furnished guest suites that owners can rent to their relatives and friends -- for much less than a hotel room would cost.
The list of benefits goes on, and people who had the foresight to buy when the average price was $1.1 million (with maintenance fees of $600 to $1,100), aren't about to let go of their units -- or their lifestyle -- now that the value has increased substantially.
For instance, when Inouye returns from Costco, Hokua staff unload her groceries onto a cart, then deliver them to her door upstairs. "The convenience is incredible," she said, "and I have no yard work to do."
Giving up her yard, however, did not mean surrendering her love for outdoor entertaining. On the terrace level, five cabanas stocked with Wolf barbecues and patio furniture invite owners to host moderate-sized parties. All are fitted with wireless Internet connections and cable access, accommodating a giant flat screen on Super Bowl Sunday or during New Year's Eve festivities. A gourmet kitchen off the Terrace Room serves those who prefer to have their gatherings catered.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
C.C., a West Highland Terrier, and Leilani, a giant Angora rabbit, enjoy Hokua's bark park.
Newspapers are hung on each doorknob in a plastic bag every morning. There's valet service out front, and personalized deliveries so residents don't have to wait around for UPS and FedEx. While the building did lose power during the earthquake, the emergency public address system offered hourly news updates.
"It was very comforting here (after the earthquake)," said real estate agent Eve Shere, who lives in Hokua with her husband, Reginald Worthley, a professor in the College of Business at the University of Hawaii who grew up on a potato farm in Northern Maine. "We partied for 10 straight hours with neighbors. I think I had one of the best Sundays ever. You feel so safe in this building."
Shere and her husband, who have a grown son, moved after 19 years in a single-family home. "It was a complete change of lifestyle," said Shere. "The way that we can live here is actually so much better than the lifestyle we had in our home in Nuuanu. We can go to restaurants and movies, and walk everywhere."
Shere favors Marukai for groceries and fish, Tropics for breakfast, On Jin's for lunch, E & O Trading Company for dinner, and P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Hokua's ground floor as a "neighborhood gathering spot," where the wine list is impressive and the pupus are enough to satiate you for dinner. "Everything is right here," said Shere. "I can't tell you the relationships surrounding businesses have developed with this Hokua community."
For Shere, a typical day begins with a 7 a.m. walk through Ala Moana Beach Park and the requisite cup of Starbucks coffee on Hokua's ground floor. She then goes to work -- in her condo overlooking the ocean. "When people take a picture of my desk in the house, it's kind of a joke, it's that incredible," said Shere. In the evenings, somebody usually invites them to bring a vegetable and a bottle of wine to a barbecue in one of the cabanas. "It's absolutely a sense of community."
Contrary to general assumption, these condos are not reserved for the superrich -- just those who planned well.
"It's like a subdivision, only we're vertical," added resident Carol Mazuk, who parented her own child and foster children with Ron, her husband of 41 years. Ron Mazuk, who drove a school bus for a while after retiring from the military, now attends Kapioani Community College's Culinary Institute to improve his home cooking. Carol Mazuk spends much of her time volunteering, and serves as chairwoman of Hokua's Bark Park committee.
"It's important that buildings allow pets, because it makes it a better family atmosphere," she said. Both Leilani, her giant Angora rabbit, and C.C., her West Highland terrier, are frequent visitors to the immaculate grassy area next to the tennis courts on the Terrace level.
There's plenty of space for people to exercise, too. A fully equipped gym with a yoga, Pilates and spinning room complements an infinity-edge lap pool overlooking Ala Moana Beach Park. Clear walls block the wind without impairing the stunning vistas.
Shere and her husband work out every day. They walk, use the gym and play tennis, and have discovered that living in the Ward area has cut their gas use in half. "We do so much in the neighborhood that we don't tend to drive as much."
Mazuk agreed: "We sold a car because we don't need two cars anymore. It's so wonderful to be able to walk to the hairdresser to get my hair done."
Ian MacNaughton appreciates the proximity of restaurants. "A young guy like me who's not cooking for himself a whole lot, having P.F. Chang's downstairs is nice," he said, adding that he ate at Whole Foods three times a week while in San Francisco.
"I think what we like ... is it's a big suburb," said Bob Crowley, director of operations for PFC Hawaii. "A lot of the businesses are family owned. The main thing is, we saw it as a big growth area. It had already established itself as a great place for locals, with some tourists. And we wanted to be a local restaurant. We wanted an upscale feel without upscale prices."
Beginning with the construction of the new John A. Burns School of Medicine campus and a concerted effort to address the homeless crisis, Shere said she's noticed a "big difference" in the cleanliness of Ala Moana and the Kakaako Waterfront area. Still, she remains concerned, and devotes much of her spare time to a nonprofit organization called Family Promise that aids homeless families.
"You can't live in the lap of luxury ... and not be aware that we have an extreme housing crisis," she said. "Once again, it's a sense of community. And Ala Moana is part of my community. I feel a personal responsibility to help."
Shere is not alone. More and more people appear to be seeking a similar neighborhood existence in lives that have become too hectic and isolated, with too many hours spent on the road.
"Convenience is playing a huge role in lifestyle choices today, and seeing all of these condos going up is a sign of that," said P.F. Chang's McPhail. "Trying to simplify ... has become more important."