COURTESY GENERAL GROWTH PROPERTIES
This rendering shows how the skyline mauka of Kewalo Basin would change under the 20-year Ward Master Plan. General Growth Properties, which owns 60 acres in the district as well as Ala Moana Center, says it wants as much as 80 percent of the Ward area to be residential.
Ward master plan unveiled
General Growth's vision for the community was met with mixed feelings at a meeting yesterday
Picture a new Ward neighborhood lined with a mix of mid-rise and high-rise condominiums along Ala Moana Boulevard, with a grand plaza opening onto Kewalo Basin.
This vision is part of a master plan for a live-work-play community in Kakaako that General Growth Properties presented to the state Hawaii Community Development Authority yesterday. It calls for a community "that could be as much as 80 percent residential in use, with the balance in retail, commercial and office uses."
Ward Master Plan
Developer: General Growth Properties
Where: 60 acres bound by Ala Moana Boulevard, Queen Lane, Queen Street and Ohe Lane.
Current use: 1.2 million square feet, mostly retail, including 300 businesses
Projected use: Up to 4,300 residential units (7 million square feet) plus retail, office and commercial space
More information: www.wardneighborhood.com
Source: General Growth Properties
HCDA has 200 days to review and approve the plan. If the authority makes no decision, the plan would automatically be approved.
Early public reaction yesterday to General Growth's vision was mixed -- some responded with alarm, while others welcomed the change.
"High-rises do not belong on the waterfront," said Michelle Matson. "They are an intrusion and interruption. They're not in harmony with sound planning principles that dictate lower development closer to the waterfront."
Matson, who is secretary of the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council, was speaking as an individual.
Chuck Heitzman, a Kakaako resident for 14 years, and president of the Nauru Tower Board, welcomed the plans.
"I'm very excited about the plan," said Heitzman, also speaking as an individual.
Heitzman said he was impressed with the development team after attending an open house in March.
"There's going to be a lot of energy here," he said. "When you have high-rises, medium-rises and low-rises, then you can afford to have some amenities that people can enjoy."
Anne Stevens, chair of the Ala Moana/Kakaako Neighborhood Board, was cautiously optimistic.
"We understand that in order for General Growth to provide a lot of the community amenities that they've promised, like parks and infrastructure upgrades, we will have to accept more condominiums and residents into the community."
The Ward area as seen from the air in January 2007. General Growth Properties' 20-year Ward Master Plan calls for redeveloping the area into a live-work-play community that would be as much as 80 percent residential.
She said more affordable workforce housing was also welcome.
Jeff Merz, a senior planner at Onyx Group, said he hopes General Growth really does incorporate smart growth into their design.
Smart growth means taking the pedestrian into account first, he said, followed by bikes and public transit before the personal car. It does not mean simply including a mix of retail on the ground floor.
Recently built residential towers, including the Hokua, he said, are examples of monolithic high-rises that cater to drivers more than pedestrians.
The Koolani is even worse, he said, with half of its street frontage occupied by a parking garage and a monolithic wall along the sidewalk.
Jan Yokota, vice president of development for General Growth, reminded authority board members that the plan was conceptual, and might actually take up to 30 years to complete.
She said the exact design plans for the first phase, though it includes the Central Plaza, have not been determined yet. General Growth would also need to go back to HCDA for approval of individual residential projects.
"We're asking for your approval of the overall master plan," she said.
Yokota told the Star-Bulletin the residential component is a necessary part of the plans.
"To have a real neighborhood, you have to have people living there," she said. "In order to do public spaces, we need these taller buildings."
Yokota said General Growth is trying to align its plan with the Kakaako Mauka Area Plan being drafted by PlanPacific -- a planning consultant that HCDA hired in 2006 -- but that most of it complies with current rules.
Matson questioned why the HCDA would approve General Growth's master plan before a supplemental environmental impact statement is completed on a Mauka Area Plan.
General Growth says the residential towers along Ala Moana Boulevard, although they could be up to 400 feet tall, would be slim and oriented mauka to makai so as not to block view corridors.
This would require some setback modifications, which General Growth is seeking, along with a request that podiums be allowed 20 to 30 feet higher, to 75 feet, to help screen parking structures.
The maximum allowable development on the property under current rules would include up to 7 million square feet of residential space, or up to 5 million square feet of retail/restaurant space, and up to 4 million square feet of office space.