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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Kaka'ako tower planned

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i development firms The MacNaughton Group and Kobayashi Group signed an agreement yesterday with Kaka'ako landowner Victoria Ward Ltd. to develop a high-end residential high-rise between Ala Moana Center and Ward Centre.

Plans for the project announced yesterday are in the conceptual design stage, but call for retail and commercial uses on the first two levels, and residential condominiums above.

Project principals said they could conceivably start selling units early next year, though plans are subject to finalizing the design concept, obtaining financing, and approval by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees redevelopment in Kaka'ako.

The planned tower, on four acres at the corner of Ala Moana and Auahi Street, is the first significant advance to adding the missing piece of Victoria Ward's vision for transforming its 65-acre estate of mostly retail, office and industrial property into an urban village with a two-block main street adjoined by a residential community.

Victoria Ward a year ago announced its willingness to sell some pieces of its property for development of up to six residential towers, and in November said discussions for such a project were ongoing with developers.

"A residential project of this nature will begin to realize the dream of a 'live, work, play' smart-growth new urban community in Kaka'ako," said Mitch D'Olier, Victoria Ward president and chief executive officer.

MacNaughton Group Chairman Duncan MacNaughton said his market analysis shows large, high-end units with concierge-like services would be complemented by Ward's village-style shopping, dining and entertainment environment.

"This project is in its feasibility stage, but we are optimistic about our chances for moving forward," he said.

D'Olier added that the project will complement the University of Hawai'i John A. Burns School of Medicine planned on state land nearby.

The tower, if developed as planned, would add to what is evolving into a cluster of luxury high-rise condominiums on the block occupied by the blue-glass-sided Nauru and Hawaiki towers.

"I think more residential (development) can grow in Kaka'ako," D'Olier said. "(I hope) the cluster turns out to be a neighborhood."

Nauru Phosphate Royalties (Honolulu) Development Inc., which developed Nauru and Hawaiki towers, in March delayed for a year tentative plans to build a third high-end condo tower in the area because of financing problems in the Republic of Nauru. But the company is looking for a partner or buyer to continue its five-tower master-planned project.

For help with the Ward high-rise, the MacNaughton/Kobayashi partnership, MK LLC, has engaged New York-based architectural firm Gary Edward Handel & Associates, whose projects include luxury hotels in New York and San Francisco as well as the downtown Honolulu office building First Hawaiian Tower.

Also assisting with the project is the local construction management company CM&D and the Honolulu-based sales and marketing firm Karl Heyer & Associates. A general contractor has not been selected.

The agreement between MK and Victoria Ward provides an option for MK to purchase the project site.

The pending acquisition of Victoria Ward by Ala Moana Center owner General Growth Properties Inc. is not expected to affect project plans.

General Growth announced its $250 million deal in April to buy Victoria Ward, including existing leases, options and contracts. The purchase is scheduled to close on or before June 15.

The MacNaughton Group has been primarily a commercial developer credited with establishing the first big-box retailers — Kmart and Costco — in the Islands. The company also developed Maui Marketplace and helped develop Waikele Center.

The Kobayashi Group is headed by Bert A. Kobayashi, a University of Hawai'i regent and former chief executive of the construction firm Albert C. Kobayashi Inc.

Kobayashi was part of a group that tried unsuccessfully to purchase Aloha Tower Marketplace in 1997, and has partnered to build homes, schools and the state office building in Kapolei.

Recently, a Kobayashi Group affiliate bought two Waikiki hotels and three island golf courses from Japanese firm Sports Shinko.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8065.