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Honolulu construction costs 4th highest in the world, RLB report shows

Photo Credit: Jack Tyrrell and Company. Pictured above is Honolulu’s flagship Whole Foods Market and Aeʻo, which were both completed in 2018.

Honolulu construction costs continue to be some of the highest in the world. According to Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), Honolulu’s construction costs in 2018 were the 4th highest in the world. Despite the high costs, market trends do not show a slow down in construction. In Ward Village alone, two residential towers are planned for completion in 2019.

Read more from Pacific Business News, below:

Honolulu’s construction cost increases over the last year were the lowest in the nation, but the costs to build make Hawaii’s largest city the fourth-highest in the world, according to recent reports by Rider Levett Bucknall.

Oslo, Norway, topped RLB’s global construction cost relativity index in its construction cost report for the fourth quarter, and was followed by San Francisco, New York, Honolulu, then Paris.

RLB bases its index on the local costs of standard building models or basket of goods, using the same quantities and specifications in local currencies.

In its fourth quarter report for North America, RLB noted that construction-put-in-place in the United States in October was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.3 billion, which was 4.9 percent higher than the October 2017 estimate of $1.247 billion.

Honolulu had the lowest rate of change among 12 U.S. cities at 1.92 percent for RLB’s comparative construction costs, which track the true cost of construction, including labor, materials, contractor overhead costs and sales and use taxes.

Chicago had the largest increase at 7.22 percent, followed by Phoenix at 6.63 percent and Portland, Oregon, at 6.62 percent. Those two cities had the third- and fourth-lowest costs in the nation; Las Vegas had the lowest costs, followed by Denver.

Meanwhile, Ride Levett Bucknall’s crane index report for January found the number of construction cranes in Honolulu has dropped by nearly one half since last spring, ranking the city 10th among 11 U.S. cities.

Honolulu had six tower cranes in operation as of November, compared to 11 in May when the city also ranked at No. 10, on the biannual index released last week. Phoenix once again had the fewest cranes at five, which Seattle came in at No. 1 with 59, which was a decrease from 65 cranes last summer.

RLB attributed the drop to the number of projects marking completion during the second half of 2018, which included The Howard Hughes Corp.’s Aeo, Sam Koo’s Kapiolani Residence and The Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach.

The report also noted that because of changes at the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting, “hotel owners and developers and pushing their planned projects forward to accommodate the longer processing time, which may lead to an increase in the crane count towards the end of 2019.”

Honolulu’s crane count has steadily declined from a high of 22 on the July 2015 index, according to RLB. However, several high-rise projects getting set to start vertical construction this year, including Brookfield Properties’ Lilia Waikiki and ProsPac Holdings’ Azure Ala Moana, could boost the count by next summer.



Kakaako condo Ae‘o ready for owners

Photo: Jack Tyrrell and Company, Inc.

Photo: Jack Tyrrell and Company, Inc.

Ae‘o is officially welcoming its first owners! Congratulations to the owners who were able to move in this past Thursday, December 6, 2018. Owners will be moving into their units throughout the month.

Ae‘o is the first Ward Village condo development to completely sell out. However, I do have one unit for sale and a few units for rent. If you are interested, contact me now, as interest for the brand-new building is high!

Read more from the Honolulu Star Advertiser below:

Chris Laniauskas is an occasional Whole Foods Market shopper, but that likely will change soon when he takes up residence in a tower connected to the natural food retailer’s flagship Hawaii store in Kakaako.

The local insurance company executive was part of an initial group of about 150 new condominium owners in the Ae‘o high-rise at Ward Village who picked up their keys Thursday and will move into the 38-story tower over the next few weeks.

By late January all 466 owners in the sold-out building are scheduled to take possession of their new homes, which cost $1 million on average.

Ae‘o’s developer, Howard Hughes Corp., held a blessing ceremony Thursday morning before the first condo owners started arriving.

“This is the culmination of what we’ve all been able to provide: new homes and a new lifestyle for many here at Ward Village,” Todd Apo, senior vice president of community development in Hawaii for Texas-based Hughes Corp., said at the blessing attended by about 100 people who were involved in the tower’s development and management.

Ae‘o is the third tower to open in as many years at Ward Village, a 60-acre property master-planned for 16 towers with about 4,500 homes and 1 million square feet of retail space. The first two towers were Waiea, which opened in 2016, and Anaha, which opened last year.

New owners who arrived Thursday received a gift bag that included a homeowner’s manual, an umbrella and stemless clear silicone wine glasses. Among the group were a father and son who came from the airport with four suitcases after a flight from Japan to kick off a stay in their new vacation home.

Dickson Wong was another buyer who picked up keys Thursday. He and his wife made Kakaako their home seven years ago when they bought a new unit in the Pacifica Honolulu tower fronting Kapiolani Boulevard. Then, two years ago, they moved to The Collection when that tower was completed at the bottom of South Street.

“We like condo living,” Wong said. “It’s kind of like living in a hotel.”

Laniauskas said the growing Ward Village community was what attracted him and his wife, who is eight months pregnant, to move from a condo tower in the Ala Moana area.

“We’re buying into Ward Village as much as we’re buying into the building,” he said. “Being walkable is what’s attractive (about the community).”

Laniauskas added that Whole Foods being part of the tower was a definite draw. “It’s great to have something like that below,” he said.

Whole Foods opened in May. The store isn’t directly below the condos, but is part of the building, which includes separate parking structures for retail customers and residents. Ae‘o residents can get to the store by walking through a portal on the second level of their parking garage that leads to the retailer’s garage and a store entrance.

Annalee English, the store’s manager, said business is expected to increase with all the residents moving in. “We’re excited to be their pantry downstairs,” she said. “It’s a huge convenience factor, for sure.”

Like Laniauskas, Wong expects he and his wife will be more frequent shoppers at Whole Foods.

“I think now that we live here, we’ll visit more often,” Wong said.



Ward Village News: Howard Hughes Corp.'s Hawaii projects take top honors at PCBC

Photo: Jack Tyrrell and Company, Inc.

Photo: Jack Tyrrell and Company, Inc.

The Howard Hughes Corporation took home four top awards and three awards of merit at the PCBC 2018, formerly known as Pacific Coast Builder Conference, for its Ward Village development in Kakaako, Honolulu. Top awards are in bold, below. For over 59 years, PCBC has been dedicated to advancing the art, science and business of housing. PCBC is the largest homebuilding tradeshow representing the west coast region. Read more from the Pacific Business News below, here: 

The Howard Hughes Corp.’s Ward Village project in Honolulu recently took home four top awards, including masterplan community of the year, and three awards of merit at the largest homebuilding trade show on the West Coast, while two other Hawaii projects, Keauhou Place and Keauhou Lane, were recognized with awards of merit in two categories.

Ward Village received one of two grand awards for the masterplan community of the year from the Golden Nugget Awards at the annual PCBC conference, formerly known as the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, in San Francisco last week. Esencia in Rancho Mission Viejo, California, also received the grand award for masterplan community of the year.

Ward Village was also honored with a grand award for best indoor/outdoor lifestyle for a community – urban, while the The Howard Hughes Corps.’s (NYSE: HHC) first completed tower, Waiea, received the grand award for best multi-family housing community with 100 units per acre or more, and its fifth planned tower, Aalii, was honored with the grand award for best innovative housing design.

Receiving awards of merit were the developer’s South Shore Market at Ward Village for best commercial project - 20,000 square feet and over, the Ke Kilohana mixed-used tower for best on-the-boards multifamily community and the grand penthouse in Waiea for best indoor/outdoor lifestyle for a home.

“We are honored to be recognized among our industry peers and grateful for our passionate team at Ward Village, which is creating one of the most sought after communities in the country — with almost 96 percent of total units closed or under contract to date,” Simon Treacy, president of The Howard Hughes Corp.’s Hawaii operations, said in a statement. “As we continue to build on the legacy of Victoria Ward who envisioned this land to be a gathering place for everyone, we realize that we have this unique privilege to create a thoughtful neighborhood — one that is not only grounded in its past, but also has an eye to the future and is a place for all.”

Meanwhile, the Keauhou Place condominium project, which was developed by Stanford Carr Development and completed last fall, received an award of merit for best affordable housing community of 100 units or more, while Keauhou Lane, an affordable rental project next door developed by Gerding Edlen, received an award of merit for best multi-family community of the year.

This year’s Golden Nugget awards recognized more Hawaii projects than the past several years. Ward Village won the grand award for best on-the-boards mixed-use project at the 2017 conference, while Forest City Hawaii’s Kapolei Lofts won best affordable housing community with less than 30 units per acre in 2016.



Ward Village condo sales aid developer’s profit, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Photo: Property of Jack Tyrrell & Company

Photo: Property of Jack Tyrrell & Company

Howard Hughes Corporation has reported that it has sold 93%, or 1,286 of 1,381 condo units, across its Waiea, Anaha, Aeo, and Ke Kilohana condominium projects in Ward Village. The update was a part of the company's Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017 results, released on Monday, February 26, 2018. Investors and the public can read the financial report on their website here.

With 93% of condos already sold, inventory is tight. However, we currently have three beautiful units at Waiea and eight in Anaha. Plus, there are still great available units in Aeo and Ke Kilohana. Please contact me to learn more!

Read the full Star Advertiser report, below:

The Texas-based developer of Ward Village signed 55 more sale contracts for condominiums in its Ae‘o tower in the fourth quarter, bringing total sales to 91 percent of the project scheduled for completion by the end of this year.

Howard Hughes Corp. gave the sales update Monday as part of announcing its financial results for the last three months of 2017.

The company also said that in the recent quarter it sold two condos in its recently finished Anaha tower, two units at its Ke Kilohana tower that is on pace for completion next year, and no units at its Waiea tower that opened at the end of 2016.

Total revenue recognized from Ward Village condo sales in the fourth quarter was $122 million, which compared with $123 million in the same quarter the year before.

Hughes Corp. “recognizes” revenue from condo sales for accounting purposes even though buyers have not completed their purchases, as allowed under federal tax regulations that permit developers to count a certain percentage of revenue in reflection of how much construction of a tower is completed.

For all of last year, Hughes Corp. recognized $464 million in revenue from Ward Village condo sales, compared with $486 million the year before.

At Waiea, 165 of 174 condos have been sold, or 95 percent of the “ultra-luxury” tower where the average unit price is $3.6 million.

At Anaha, 309 of 317 condos have been sold, or 98 percent of the luxury building where unit prices average $1.2 million.

Ke Kilohana is 92 percent sold, with 390 of 424 units under contract in the “workforce housing” tower where most units are priced between roughly $300,000 and $600,000.

The 55 additional sales at Ae‘o bring pending sales in the upscale tower to 422 out of 466 units priced at $1 million on average.

Overall, Hughes Corp. has sold 1,286 of 1,381 condo units in the four towers, or 93 percent of the total.

Besides Ward Village, Hughes Corp. is developing several master-planned communities and large commercial real estate projects on the mainland. The company said it earned $147 million in the fourth quarter on $301 million of revenue, up from a $44 million profit on $279 million of revenue in the same quarter the prior year. Profit for all of last year was $167 million on $1.1 billion of revenue, down from $202 million on $1 billion of revenue in 2016.



Neighborhood News: New Whole Foods store to open in Kakaako by June

Whole Foods as of February 13, 2018. Photo: Jack Tyrrell & Company, Inc.

Photo: Jack Tyrrell & Company, Inc.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports on the highly anticipated Whole Foods Market in Kakaako below:

Whole Foods Market will open its largest Hawaii store by early summer in Kakaako after a dozen years of planning and setbacks.

Photo: Jack Tyrrell & Company, Inc.

The health food giant that specializes in organic and natural products will begin operations at its fourth Hawaii location by June, the company said Monday.

The latest Whole Foods will occupy the first two floors at the $429 million Ae‘o condominium at 1001 Queen St., part of the master-planned community of Ward Village.

The 72,000-square-foot, two-story store will be more than twice the size of its second-largest Hawaii store in Kailua. The new store will sell locally grown products — including produce, seafood and meats — as well as its popular natural body items, and will offer indoor and outdoor seating.

“We are thrilled to be opening our third store on Oahu and to serve as a new gathering place for the local community,” said Marci Frumkin, a company spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.

The company would not say how many employees it will be hiring or give an exact opening date. It also didn’t disclose future expansion plans for the islands.

Whole Foods first announced its plans to open a Kakaako flagship store in 2006, as the anchor tenant at the site now occupied by TJ Maxx. The Austin, Texas-based retailer planned to open the store in early 2008, but walked away from the project after delays caused by the discovery of iwi, or Native Hawaiian remains, followed by the recession and later the bankruptcy of former developer General Growth Properties.

The new location, on the site of the former Office Depot and Nordstrom Rack, will be blocks away from local natural foods retailer Down to Earth, which is scheduled to open a 13,000-square-foot store in early April on the ground floor of Keauhou Lane, a new mid-rise apartment building at the corner of Keawe and Pohukaina streets.

Whole Foods first entered Hawaii in 2008 with its Kahala Mall store, which is just over 28,000 square feet. That was followed in 2010 by a 27,000-square-foot store in Kahului and a 32,000-square-foot Kailua outlet, which opened in 2012.

The store is part of Dallas-based Howard Hughes’ $7.5 billion master plan calling for 16 towers with as many as 4,300 residential units and 1 million square feet of retail space at the 60-acre Ward Village.



Howard Hughes hires BlackRock exec to oversee Hawaii development

Simon2Cropped.jpg (1).jpg

HONOLULU--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Howard Hughes Corporation® (NYSE: HHC) announced today that Simon Treacy has joined the company as President, Hawai’i. In this position, Mr. Treacy will be leading the development, sales and operations of Ward Village®, the acclaimed 60-acre master planned community recently named “Best Planned Community in the US” by Architectural Digest. Since beginning sales in 2014, Ward Village has sold more than 1,300 homes. At full build-out, the community will consist of more than 4,500 residences and approximately one million square feet of retail space.

Mr. Treacy has 20 years of global real estate experience across Asia, Europe and the US. He has lived in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, and China, and spent the past four years in New York as BlackRock Real Estate’s Managing Director, Global Chief Investment Officer and Head of US Equity. Prior to BlackRock, Mr. Treacy was a Founding Shareholder and Global CEO of MGPA, which was acquired by BlackRock in 2013, and had $14 billion of funds under management in Asia and Europe. Mr. Treacy is also a global governing trustee in ULI and a leader in urban planning and land use.

“With his long and successful track record in real estate and urban planning, Simon is a tremendous addition to our senior team and well positioned to steer Ward Village as it continues to come to life as one of the leading urban master plans in the world,” said David R. Weinreb, Chief Executive Officer of The Howard Hughes Corporation. “I am particularly pleased to have found a dynamic executive like Simon, who already calls Honolulu home, and who brings a variety of skill sets and experiences that can complement our existing deep bench of talent at Ward Village.”

“My family and I made the decision to move from the mainland to this beautiful and special place last year for personal reasons; I am excited that the opportunity presented itself to join this dynamic company which is transforming Oahu’s urban core,” said Simon Treacy. “I am looking forward to listening, learning, and finding the right ways to be of service in the community as I share my experiences and lead the continued development of Ward Village.”

Mr. Treacy is taking the helm at Ward Village as the community celebrates several recent milestones, including the successful delivery of Anaha®—the second mixed-use residential building in the community. Ward Village has also reached a near sellout of the first collection of homes from its four towers either delivered or under construction—Waiea®AnahaAe`o®, and Ke Kilohana—whose contracted sales have collectively exceeded 93 percent of available homes. Most recently, the launch of sales at ‘A‘ali‘iexpanded the selection of residences at Ward Village with the introduction of innovative smart-living homes. The strong market demand for new housing in Honolulu and the desire for an urban, walkable lifestyle have made Ward Village a sought-after destination for home buyers. The momentum is expected to continue to build throughout the coming years; openings slated for 2018 include the state’s largest Whole Foods Market, as well as the first O’ahu location of the acclaimed restaurant Merriman’s.

As the largest LEED-ND Platinum certified master plan development in the country and the only one in Hawaiʻi, Ward Village is at the forefront of sustainable community development, featuring public amenities at a scale not offered by any other urban development in the state.

About Ward Village®

Being developed by The Howard Hughes Corporation®, Ward Village is a 60-acre coastal master-planned community in the heart of Honolulu located between downtown and Waikīkī in the Kaka'ako district. Ward Village is at the forefront of sustainable community development, integrating significant architecture, local culture, and public space. New tree-lined sidewalks and bike lanes provide access to an over 100-acre public beach park and the Kewalo Harbor. Since beginning sales in 2014, Ward Village has sold more than 1,300 homes. At full build-out, the community will consist of more than 4,500 residences and approximately one million square feet of retail space.

Ward Village includes four mixed-use residential towers—Waiea®, Anaha®, Ae`o®, and Ke Kilohana—that are transforming the popular shopping and dining district into a vibrant neighborhood that offers ocean views and a thoughtfully curated mix of retail experiences set among walkable open spaces. The most recently approved building, ‘A‘ali‘i, will continue to expand the selection of new homes at Ward Village and sit at the top of the Central Plaza, which will serve as a key public gathering and activation space for the community. Art and culture play an integral role at Ward Village, which was the home of the inaugural Honolulu Biennial in 2017. Public art is highlighted throughout the neighborhood, including large-scale wall murals, sculptures and locally-inspired exhibits.

Ward Village is Hawai‘i’s only LEED-ND Platinum-Certified project and is the largest neighborhood development in the country to receive such a prestigious certification. For more information, visit www.wardvillage.com.

About The Howard Hughes Corporation®

The Howard Hughes Corporation owns, manages and develops commercial, residential and mixed-use real estate throughout the U.S. Its award-winning assets include the country’s preeminent portfolio of master planned communities, as well operating properties and development opportunities including: The Seaport District NYC in New York; Columbia, Maryland; The Woodlands®, The Woodlands Hills, and Bridgeland® in the Greater Houston, Texas area; Summerlin®, Las Vegas; and Ward Village® in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. The Howard Hughes Corporation’s portfolio is strategically positioned to meet and accelerate development based on market demand, resulting in one of the strongest real estate platforms in the country. Dedicated to innovative placemaking, the company is recognized for its ongoing commitment to design excellence and to the cultural life of its communities. The Howard Hughes Corporation is traded on the New York Stock Exchange as HHC. For additional information visit www.howardhughes.com.

Safe Harbor Statement

Statements made in this press release that are not historical facts, including statements accompanied by words such as “will,” “believe,” “expect,” “enables,” “realize,” “plan,” “intend,” “assume,” “transform” and other words of similar expression, are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based on management’s expectations, estimates, assumptions, and projections as of the date of this release and are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in these statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are set forth as risk factors in The Howard Hughes Corporation’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its Quarterly and Annual Reports. The Howard Hughes Corporation cautions you not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements contained in this release. The Howard Hughes Corporation does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect future events, information or circumstances that arise after the date of this release.


The Howard Hughes Corporation
Cristina Carlson, 646-822-6910
VP, Corporate Communications and Public Relations

For HHC Investor Relations
David O’Reilly, 214-741-7744
Chief Financial Officer



Construction Update: Aeo at Ward Village

Photo: Ward Village, Howard Hughes Corporation

Photo: Ward Village, Howard Hughes Corporation

Development at Ward Village is non-stop. With Anaha officially open as of November 2017, we now turn our eyes to the progress on the Howard Hughes Corporation's next condo project, Aeo. The streetscape at Kamakee has changed dramatically already. From new crosswalks added to the street to the state's flagship Whole Foods quickly rising up, Howard Hughes provides an update to the highly anticipated Aeo, which is slated to open in August 2018:

Since breaking ground last year, significant progress has been made to bring the building to life. When completed, Ae'o will raise the collective bar when it comes to residential amenities, giving homeowners an unparalleled opportunity to experience a new standard of living in urban Honolulu.

If you've driven down Kamake'e street recently, you may have noticed that Ae'o's signature wind patterns have quickly taken shape. The sweeping metallic design paints a picture of modernity and sophistication, all the while paying homage to the natural wonders that have shaped these treasured islands. But its signature trade-wind pattern is hardly the building's sole nod to nature. In fact, its very namesake is derived by looking toward the past.

For hundreds of years, the Ae'o, or Hawaiian stilt bird, once inhabited this swath of Honolulu. An area once rich with salt ponds taro fields, the land that constitutes present-day Ward Village was once known as the 'ili of KukuluAe'o. In an effort to integrate the deep-seeded stories and forces that gave life this special land, the famed architectural and design team from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) worked with Hawaiian culture experts and historians to create a building that melds its history with a 21st-century residential living experience second to none.

"Like the prevailing trade winds that frequent the islands and gave the Ae'o flight, the design of this building is meant to honor the wind," said Race Randle, VP of Development at Ward Village. "The shape and design of the building is a reflection of that lightness and flow. Given the bird's history to this land, it felt like a way for us to pay tribute."

Since first ground was broken last year, the team of frame workers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and masons, have recorded enormous progress. As you might imagine, it takes a mind-numbing amount of concrete, sweat, rebar, and thought to sculpt this type of residence in the heart of Honolulu.

"To date, we've poured 32 floors of concrete, completed the shell for Whole Foods, and have created four levels of parking. We've also glazed (added glass to the building's exterior) up to the 26th floor. It's really coming together nicely," said Rob Centra, Ward Village's Senior Vice President, Design & Construction Management. "Each of the towers we've worked on feels very distinct, but I think that's especially true of Ae'o. It's really gratifying seeing the building take shape. Currently, we have about 400 people working on the job, but that should expand up to 600 after the holidays as we gear up for opening in August of 2018."

When Ae'o is completed, the tower will feature 466 stunningly designed residences and more than 60,000-square feet of retail space, in addition to some of the most impressive amenities you'll find anywhere in Honolulu. (Be prepared: you're going to see a lot of pool and sunset terrace photos on your feed as residents move in.) To boot, a flagship Whole Foods Market will also be housed in the building's ground floor and will serves a hub for the surrounding community.

"We're so excited to bring the community the best that Whole Foods Market has to offer with our newest Hawai'i store," says Whole Foods Market's Roger Fawcett. "The market will not only create new local jobs, but it will introduce more customers to the amazing local products we source from nearly 300 suppliers from the Hawai'i an Islands."

It can't be denied that Ward Village is truly a community on the rise. Much like the Ae'o of the past used the prevailing trade winds to take flight, Ward Village is using its reverence for the history to propel it toward future. "We believe that it's our responsibility to preserve the stories behind the land. It should be a requirement to honor the past at every opportunity," adds Ward Village's Race Randle. "And we're thrilled with the way Ae'o has accomplished that."



Business News: Prices at Whole Foods drop under Amazon

Rendering of Aeo Whole Foods in Ward Village, which will be Hawaii's flagship Whole Foods location.

Rendering of Aeo Whole Foods in Ward Village, which will be Hawaii's flagship Whole Foods location.

The sale of organic grocer Whole Foods Market to Amazon has already brought down prices at local Hawaii Whole Foods locations.  This is an exciting development, as Ward Village in Kakaako prepares for the Whole Foods flagship store to come to the neighborhood.  The future Whole Foods Market will be the state's biggest, and will be located on the ground level of Aeo, which is scheduled to be complete next year.  The tower will feature a special elevator just for residents into the market, making your everyday shopping more convenient than ever.  

Read more from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, below.

Ala Moana resident Aki Rey was shocked to find that the price of her favorite organic bananas at Whole Foods Market in Kahala dropped by a $1 to 69 cents a pound Monday, the first day that Amazon took over ownership of the national health food store.

“I’m still shocked about the price, especially bananas,” said Rey, 37. “I’m a big fan of Amazon. I shop at Amazon a lot. I think that’s great for customers. Everybody likes lower prices.”

Amazon.com Inc. acquired Whole Foods Market Inc. on Monday in a $13.7 billion deal and promptly cut prices by up to 43 percent for some products in a strategy to move away from the perception that the upscale grocery store — often dubbed “Whole Paycheck” — is for the rich and unaffordable for shoppers on a budget.

“It’s always been this ‘Whole Paycheck’ thing. I still think you’re gonna have people whose mindset is, ‘Oh this place is for the rich,’ and they’d rather go to their Times or Foodland (where) they feel more comfortable,” said Kaira Resch, 48, of Wilhelmina Rise, who was shopping Monday at the Kahala store. “Now that Amazon’s taken over, those are incredible prices.”

The price of regular bananas dropped to 49 cents compared with $1.19 a pound before the ownership change. Organic Fuji apples fell to $1.99 from $3.99 per pound. Organic avocados dropped to $1.99 from $3.49 each. A box of organic lettuce was reduced to $3.49 from $5.99.

Honolulu yoga instructor Jenia Kiseleva, 36, who shops at Whole Foods at least once a week, said the price changes are welcome, especially as a way to get more people eating better.

“It will be great for people. We need to bring more people to organic food … to raise more awareness,” she said. “It’s going to be easier for people to believe that it’s OK, it’s possible, it’s not that big of a deal to eat organic.”

Aggressive pricing is a hallmark of Amazon. Rival supermarket chains, which already operate with thin profit margins, are expected to face additional pressure to keep prices down and strengthen their loyalty programs or risk losing shoppers to Whole Foods.

Local health foods store Down to Earth, which is expanding in Kakaako, Pearlridge and Kailua, said Whole Foods’ price reductions are “greatly overstated” and that costs have been cut for only a “handful of products.”

“Many of the price drops are not very significant, less than 13 percent. The price reductions appear to be more about marketing and trying to change their ‘Whole Paycheck’ price image, rather than a significant change in pricing,” said Mark Fergusson, chief executive of Down to Earth. “Down to Earth regularly reduces prices, by much more than Whole Foods has done, on hundreds of items every month as part of our ongoing promotional programs. As more people become aware of the benefits of organic and natural foods, we expect that our business will continue to grow and thrive.”

Fergusson added that Whole Foods’ overall impact on the market hasn’t been significant and that the reality is the chain is only a small player in the national grocery industry — 2 or 3 percent of the total market. However, share prices of grocery chain competitors continued to fall Monday, while Amazon’s prices inched up 0.1 percent to $946.02 per share.

“It’s definitely had a very negative impact on share prices. Definitely, the stock market is anticipating some sort of major impact,” Fergusson said. “But the story’s not over yet. We’re not sure what they’re going to do. For Down to Earth, of course, there’s some uncertainty, but I don’t see a sort of game changer happening.”

Besides lowering prices, Amazon said it will give special savings and in-store benefits to Amazon Prime members, a program that costs $99 a year and also includes free shipping of Amazon products as well as video streaming.

Amazon also plans to add Amazon Lockers at select Whole Foods locations, enabling customers to pick up or send back returns of Amazon.com products at their nearby grocery store.



Culture: Hawaiian Ae'o bird recently released

Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Wildlife Center

Did you know that the Howard Hughes Corporation named its new Ward Village Ae'o  project after a native species of the land upon which it will be built?  When the Ward family purchased the land in the 1970's, the land was known as the`ili of Kukuluae`o, a small area within a larger ahupua`a—a traditional subdivision of land. Known for its plentiful fishponds and salt pans, this resource-rich area sustained generations of native Hawaiians.  One of its native species was the Ae'o bird, or the Hawaiian stilt bird, which is considered today as endangered.

One of these endangered chicks has been rescued and raised by the Hawaii Wildlife Center in Kapaau, and is now ready to be released on Oahu.  Read more from KHON2's story, below:

A little endangered Hawaiian Stilt chick is all grown up and ready to be on its own after a seven-week stay at the Hawaii Wildlife Center in Kapaau.

The chick was rescued on Oahu and after an unsuccessful attempt to reunite it with its parents, it was decided that the young bird would need to be sent to HWC to be raised until it was old enough to be on its own.

The successful rescue and release was a team effort by the center, USDA Wildlife Services, Wheels for Wildlife volunteers, Feather and Fur Animal Hospital, and the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).

While at HWC, the chick was monitored using a remote camera system and staff took great care to prevent the stilt from becoming accustomed to humans. In addition to minimizing physical contact, staff used a mirror and photos of stilt habitat and Hawaiian Stilt adults in the incubator and aviary to provide some enrichment while the bird was under care.

The bird’s growth was documented through weekly pictures taken from intake until it was transferred to Oahu DOFAW staff for release Thursday.

This release of a Hawaiian Stilt (Ae‘o) is the latest in a busy release week for the center, including a Hawaiian Duck (Koloa Maoli), Wedge-tailed Shearwater (‘Ua‘u kani), and a White-tailed Tropicbird (Koa‘e kea), all from Oahu.



Video: Ae‘o Blessing & Groundbreaking, February 11, 2016

Ward Village released a video of the February 11, 2016 groundbreaking of the Aeo project, which you can watch above.  The project is projected to be complete in Fall 2018, and will be the site of Honolulu's future flagship Whole Foods store.

Mahalo again to the Howard Hughes/Ward Village team for inviting May and I to be there!  We have been following this project from the beginning, so we couldn't be more thrilled for the excellent Ward Village team significant event.  

A full listing of the building's amenities, details on the architecture, and more can be found on our Aeo page here.  Keep following our blog, or contact me directly to keep updated on the exciting projects going on at Ward Village.