Groundbreaking for new Kakaako luxury tower

Artist rendering of The Waiea luxury tower. (Courtesy Bennet Group Strategic Communications)

Many locals joke that the Hawaii state bird is the crane … as in construction crane.

The crane is showing up in force in Kakaako and its latest appearance will be at the Ward Village, specifically what was once the parking lot across from the multiplex.

The Waiea will be a mixed-use, residential-commercial tower, a 171-unit luxury condo with initial prices beginning at $1.7 million.

At Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony, developers said they have been in close touch with representatives of the Hawaiian host culture to be sure the space will be appropriate.

“You can see the type of relationship we have with our cultural consultants,” said David Striph of the Howard Hughes Corporation. “They actually helped us. They guided us, they taught us a lot, and their help has been invaluable.”

Groundbreaking for the Waiea is the latest of at least 10 towers being planned or under construction in Kakaako. That could put a strain on the area, with additional sewer, water and utilities considerations.

“A 21st century city means 21st century infrastructure,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Our infrastructure is 20th century becoming 21st. Rail is about infrastructure and rebuilding our sewer system which, at $4.7 billion, is almost as large as (the rail budget).”

Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, whose hula halau performed the ceremonial oli chant, said everyone will be watching the development closely.

“My philosophy is moving our Hawaiian community from one of resistance to one of insistence,” he said, “and that is that each and everyone of us as kanaka maoli should insist that things be done with integrity, with respect, and dignity for our people.”

When the Waiea project is completed in just over two years, it’s estimated that will have generated $925 million dollars for the local economy, one that the city will benefit from.

“The taxes on this property right now are $171,000 a year,” Striph said. “It’s going to be over $2 million when we’re done.”

The city will welcome that increased revenue, but the mayor offered this word of caution.

“We don’t live in a museum” Caldwell said. “We live in a changing, evolving community. Change happens whether we like it or not, so it’s more important, I believe, to plan for that change so we don’t forget who we are as a people and our roots.”

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