Developer optimistic
about local project

Ken Hughes, whose plan for
the Honolulu waterfront was chosen
by the state, has spent
a lot of time in Hawaii

By Russ Lynch

Dallas developer Ken Hughes says he is no stranger to Hawaii and is looking forward to working out a mixed-use residential and commercial development for Piers 5 and 6 on the Honolulu waterfront.

He also said he likes to get things done quickly and believes he can work out whatever differences may crop up with local authorities.

For example, Hughes said in an interview that his proposal that the state pay for whatever research needs to be done to mix his proposed development with mass transit is just one of a number of things to be resolved in future talks.

The Aloha Tower Development Corp., which selected Hughes' UC Urban as the only developer it will negotiate with for the 6.1-acre waterfront site, said yesterday that the research funding would be a deal-killer if Hughes insisted on it. Hughes made it clear in a telephone conversation that he is willing to be flexible on such issues.

The Texas developer, whose most recent project, a residential-commercial project called Mockingbird Station in Dallas, has won rave reviews from planners, said he is a total believer in mixing the waterfront with the business heart of the city.

"Our point of view is that this has nothing to do with the beach. It has everything to do with business," Hughes said.

His vision, as yet just a broad one because there are many details to be worked out, is for an urban core, a place where people live and work and where others visit for the nice restaurants and shops, he said.

And he wants to see it connected not just to downtown Honolulu by some form of people mover but to the airport and Waikiki.

Asked if he was once again raising the idea of a bridge from, say, Bishop Street to the Aloha Tower Marketplace, Hughes said no. He said he doesn't know just what could be done. "It's an engineering question," he said. But he added: "I am not a believer in overhead bridges."

The ATDC staff likes the Hughes program because they see it as visionary.

"The bottom line is we believe the opportunity is sort of a non-typical Honolulu opportunity," Hughes said. "I see Honolulu and the island repositioning themselves" to make Honolulu "more of a Pacific Rim city and less a mid-Pacific city."

That means offices and loft-style residences, such as those springing up in mainland cities atop low-rise commercial buildings with shops and restaurants.

Hughes, who started coming to Hawaii in the early 1970s when he was doing business in Japan and has come frequently on vacations, said he "fell in love with the islands."

He said he has developed a number of mixed-use urban projects and knows that something similar is possible on the Honolulu waterfront.

"We need to have a cooperative environment in any city in which we build and it appears that that is the case in Honolulu," Hughes said.

While details are a long way from final, his proposal calls for residential units on top of retail-restaurant locations, a 250-room boutique hotel, 200,000 square feet of office space and a transportation terminal possibly linking ground transit with a ferry.

ATDC staff was authorized to get into detailed negotiations with Hughes and is to report back to the ATDC board of directors every 30 days until a contract is drafted for approval.

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