The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Feature • View -

“You’re not afraid of heights are you?”

Race Ran­dle, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent at Howard Hughes Cor­po­ra­tion has stepped ca­su­ally out onto the glass bal­cony of a 36th floor pent­house. Be­low, the waves break­ing on the reef ap­pear like chalk smudges. The pages of my note­book ruf­fle in the wind.

Usu­ally the an­swer is no, be­cause I’m sur­rounded by other tall build­ings – 400 feet doesn’t feel par­tic­u­larly high in Cen­tral Hong Kong or Mid­town Man­hat­tan. This bal­cony floats freely above Honolulu’s aqua­ma­rine ocean and there is noth­ing in my line of site from Pearl Har­bor to the Di­a­mond Head crater.

The pent­house, which of­fers sim­i­larly unob­structed views through its floor to ceil­ing win­dows, oc­cu­pies the top floor of Waiea, a rip­pling glass tower lo­cated in Ward Vil­lage, a neigh­bour­hood cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped on a 60-acre ocean­front par­cel be­tween Waikiki and down­town. If the res­i­dence fetches the ask­ing price of US$36 mil­lion, it will set a new price record for Honolulu.

Price records are fre­quently bro­ken in Hawaii th­ese days. Last year Hawaii saw dou­ble-digit price gains in the lux­ury seg­ment (de­fined as the top 5 per cent of sales). Ac­cord­ing to Re­al­tor.com, lux­ury prices in Maui in­creased 33 per cent to an aver­age of US$2.485 mil­lion com­pared to a year prior, while the is­land of Kauai came in No. 4 in the coun­try with a 25 per cent leap in aver­age lux­ury price, and The Big Is­land came in No. 5 with a 24.8 per cent price in­crease.

But price points are only part of the nov­elty at Ward Vil­lage. The mas­ter plan aims to re­shape the Honolulu sky­line with around 20 new tow­ers, a re­vi­tal­ized ma­rina and wa­ter­front, bike and pedes­trian paths, pub­lic plazas and vi­brant street-level re­tail. “Hawaii ob­vi­ously has a lot of great things to of­fer,” says Todd Apo, Vice Pres­i­dent of Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment at Howard Hughes. “But we’ve never had an ur­ban core.”

Hawaii’s leg­endary cli­mate, beach re­sorts and golf cour­ses have long made it a pop­u­lar hol­i­day get­away. Honolulu, which lies on the south­ern coast of Ohau, is the most pop­u­lous city, home to 402,500 res­i­dents (955,000 if you count the sur­round­ing ar­eas)

decks fit­ted with land­scaped gar­dens, lap pools and out­door kitchens.

For the mo­ment, the streets of Ward Vil­lage re­main rel­a­tively va­cant, and large sec­tions of the for­mer in­dus­trial area are un­der con­struc­tion. But things are chang­ing.

Prop­erty sales have been swift in the project’s two com­pleted tow­ers. Only eight res­i­dences re­main at the James Chengde­signed Waiea tower (mean­ing “wa­ter of life”). Prices range from US$5.3 mil­lion for a two-bed­room unit up to US$36 mil­lion for the pent­house, which has five bed­rooms, five baths and a pri­vate rooftop in­fin­ity pool.

Across the street at the newly com­pleted Anaha, (mean­ing “re­flec­tion”), only five res­i­dences re­main with prices from US$2.5 mil­lion to US$8 mil­lion. There are also two pent­house units avail­able, each with five bed­rooms.

In Hawaii, a fo­cus on Poly­ne­sian tra­di­tion is cen­tral to any mar­ket­ing pitch and prop­erty de­vel­op­ers are quick to tell you about the tra­di­tional mean­ing of the names they have cho­sen and their re­spect for the his­tory of grounds on which they are build­ing. But the fo­cus on cul­ture per­vades more than just mar­ket­ing col­lat­eral. Hawai­ians have a strong sense of place and of­ten talk about their cul­tural and geo­graph­i­cal her­itage.

Kauai, the west­ern­most and old­est in the is­land chain (4 mil­lion years) is in­cred­i­bly lush due to its iron-rich soil and the is­land’s vine-choked forests, plung­ing wa­ter­falls and broad sand beaches have served as the back­drops for films like Juras­sic Park and Pi­rates of the Caribbean. Kauai has also long been a fa­vored play­ground of celebri­ties and ex­ec­u­tives on their se­cond or third homes (ac­tors Ben Stiller and Pierce Bros­nan both own prop­erty here).

At the top end of the mar­ket hid­den coastal com­pounds sell for tens of mil­lions. In 2014, Mark Zucker­berg fa­mously pur­chased a 700-acre prop­erty on Kauai for US$100 mil­lion. Cur­rently Kauai’s most ex­pen­sive list­ing is a US$70 mil­lion Ba­li­nese-in­spired es­tate sit­u­ated atop a sea­side bluff on the is­land’s north side.

But de­spite its lav­ish com­pounds, Kauai still re­mains qui­eter and less de­vel­oped than other is­lands. Mi­cro­cli­mates play a cen­tral role prop­erty pur­chases on Kauai, and the south­ern Po’ipu coast, which re­ceives the most an­nual sun­shine, is one of the most cov­eted spots. Sev­eral high-end re­sorts are sit­u­ated here, in­clud­ing Kukui’ula, a for­mer sugar plan­ta­tion that has been trans­formed into a lav­ish pri­vate club.

An­chored by a plan­ta­tion­style club­house, the com­mu­nity fea­tures a range of ac­com­mo­da­tions spread across rolling green ter­rain and an 18-hole golf course. A club mem­ber­ship at Kukui’ula costs US$50,000, while prop­er­ties range from bun­ga­lows of around US$1.5 mil­lion to larger vil­las over­look­ing the fair­way and ocean that start around US$4.2 mil­lion.

Re­cently, the de­vel­op­ers en­listed lead­ing ar­chi­tec­tural firms to de­sign a hand­ful of con­tem­po­rary spec homes that may help to in­spire po­ten­tial builders. Seat­tle-based Ol­son Kundig Ar­chi­tects de­signed a four-bed­room 4,238 sq ft home with el­e­vated gar­den path­ways, out­door show­ers and a slid­ing glass door in ev­ery room that let the ver­dant views in. The prop­erty, which over­looks a mango and pa­paya or­chard and the cobalt sea in the dis­tance, is of­fered at US$6.95 mil­lion.

On an ad­ja­cent lot, Dean


prop­erty fea­tures five bed­rooms, in­clud­ing two mas­ter suites and spa­cious out­door liv­ing ar­eas that en­com­pass a lap pool and spa.

There’s a lot to see on Hawaii’s Big Is­land -- in­clud­ing ac­tive vol­ca­noes and a range of hik­ing trails -- but res­i­dents at Ko­hanaiki may be tempted to stay put. In ad­di­tion to the golf course, ten­nis courts, beach­side restau­rant and ad­ven­ture club, the prop­erty is dot­ted with “com­fort sta­tions”, small air-con­di­tioned huts stocked for ev­ery whim: frozen Mai Tai cock­tails, fresh juices, sand­wiches, ice cream, sun­screen, even lip balm and lens cleaner.

“They take good care of you here,” a plas­tic sur­geon from Los An­ge­les tells me be­tween sips of a frozen pas­sion fruit cock­tail. Like many mem­bers from Amer­ica’s west coast, he spends a few weeks or up to a month at a time at Ko­hanaiki – only a hand­ful of mem­bers call Ko­hanaiki home year-round.

Other mem­bers hail from Canada, Ja­pan and Hong Kong. Asia is an im­por­tant mar­ket for Hawaii, par­tic­u­larly Ja­pan and Ko­rea, though with di­rect flights now of­fered from Shang­hai and Bei­jing, Chi­nese tourism is in­creas­ing.

Tomo Mat­sumoto, owner of Ha­puna Realty who rep­re­sents


– Todd Apo, Howard Hughes

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