Ward Village And The Transformation Of Downtown Honolulu

Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu chanted as she walked up the stairs and around the atrium at Kōʻula, the sixth high rise project to be completed at Ward Village, the 60-acre master planned community in downtown Honolulu. Leading the Blessing of the 41-story residential building with ocean and city views, she performed the traditional Hawaiian ceremony that cleanses space after construction and before occupation. The assembled crowd included neighbors, construction workers, invited guests and Honolulu employees of the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is developing Ward Village.

Located in the middle of the city, between Waikiki and downtown, Ward Village was once the home of Victoria Ward, the matriarch of a prominent Honolulu family. The land, which originally measured 100 acres and, at its present 60 acres is twice the size of Hudson Yards, became the property of the Howard Hughes Corporation in 2009. Since then, the HHC has been transforming what was a decaying industrial area into a walkable urban core and a community gathering place. Kōʻula, which has 565 homes configured as studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, is just one of a collection of LEED-platinum buildings that, when completed, will add 3,046 residential units and over 1 million square feet of retail space to the center of the city.

Kōʻula, which means ‘red sugar cane,’ was designed by Studio Gang, the renowned architecture firm led by acclaimed architect Jeanne Gang, to evoke the twisting form of that plant. Thus, the new building undulates as its 41 stories reach upward, a gentle expression of what Gang called, in a personal interview, “The vibe of the place, the Aloha spirit. People here are friendly, welcoming and express a joy of living.

“In this building, we tried to echo the beauty of the local ecology,” Gang said. “We always try to start from the inside out when designing a building; with Kōʻula, we angled the building for the best views.”

The twisting forms of the exterior were achieved by stacked structural elements called wallums. Acting both as walls and columns, the wallums make for column-free interiors, flexible layouts and support and shade for the building’s lanais.

Next to the building is Victoria Ward Park, with three and one-half acres of green space.

“Ward Village represents the kind of development we do,” says Howard Hughes Corporation president Jay Cross. “We think long term, with a 40 to 50-year point of view, and we look for large tracts of land adjacent to large cities. We like to be in growing areas.”

The Woodlands, outside Houston, Texas; Douglas, Arizona; Summerlin, Nevada and Columbia, Maryland are other HHC master-planned communities. Routinely named to ‘best places to live’ lists, these places demonstrate that people like to live in walkable neighborhoods that incorporate quality retail, green space and community gathering places.

“These are places where the coffee shop is as important as the apartment building,” Cross says. “Today, there are more people commuting into The Woodlands than out.”

At Ward Village, the Howard Hughes Corporation continues the trend, set against the incomparable beauty of Hawai’i. Victoria Ward would be proud.

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