Ward Village Master Plan and its Evolution

The master plan for Ward Village, which was approved by the Hawaii Community Development Authority in 2009, details visionary key elements – like mixed-used towers, multi-modal transportation, public spaces and streetscapes with Hawaii plants. And today, as Ward Village nears completion, many of those elements can be witnessed in the award-winning community.

By Stephanie Lopes. Updated Jan 14, 2024. | Real Estate | 8 min. read

On April 2, 2008, the original prevailing Ward Neighborhood Master Plan was submitted to the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority (HCDA), the state agency that was tasked by the Hawai‘i State Legislature to develop the Kaka‘ako community in 1976. The visionary plan promised “a new kind of neighborhood bringing new life and opportunity to the heart of Honolulu.”

HCDA had some comments on the submitted plan, and the previous owner of the 60-acre tract, General Growth Properties Inc., submitted Addendum 1 and Addendum 2 to address concerns. Many of the HCDA comments were related to requests for modification to the Mauka Area Plan, a compilation of the Hawaii Administrative Rules regarding the development of the Kakaako community; rules in the Mauka Area Plan dated between 1990 and 2005.

A rendering from the original master plan.
A rendering from the original master plan.
Another rendering from the original master plan showing community.
Another rendering from the original master plan showing community.

In 2009, General Growth received the green light from HCDA to go ahead with their multi-year master plan to develop the Ward neighborhood. But, General Growth also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the same year.

Despite the bankruptcy setback, Howard Hughes, a spinoff from General Growth Properties Inc., continued on with the vision to develop Ward. Howard Hughes took control of the development of Ward Village in 2010 and after a couple of years studying the neighborhood and real estate market, the company made some refinements to the plan – which resulted in the Ward Village plan that is unveiling in the present time.

And in fact, Howard Hughes’ master plan was named the best-planned community in the U.S. by Architectural Digest in 2017.

What are the key features of the Ward Village Master Plan?

“How do you create a new kind of neighborhood in the heart of Honolulu?” asks the 2008 Ward Neighborhood Master Plan. It then answers, “First, bring together the past, present and future in a way that is unique to the spirit of Kaka‘ako and Hawai‘i. Second, embrace the qualities that are so important to people today, from a diversity of housing to economic viability to environmental stewardship.”

Some key components of the plan to find that perfect balance and ideal Ward neighborhood included the following:

Mixed-Use Neighborhood

Integral to the Ward Village master plan is the concept of live, work and play. “Kaka‘ako residents will be able to walk over for an evening saimin or run to the corner store for milk. It will be a gathering place for families and community members,” reads the original approved master plan.

To achieve this goal, the plan calls for the development of “maintenance-free” residential offerings at different price levels. A range of housing is proposed: high-rises, mid-rises, low-rises, lofts and town homes – with a variety of floor plans ranging from studios to multi-bedroom penthouses.

Reserved Housing, in compliance with the HCDA Mauka Area Rules for the development of Kaka‘ako was also accounted for in the Ward master plan. This means that 20% of the residential units are set aside for families making up to 140% of Annual Median Income (AMI).

The plan also calls for access to and the development of supermarkets, personal services such as dry cleaners and hairdressers, professional services such as doctors and dentists, entertainment, dining and shopping. With businesses nearby, the plan says this also offers the opportunity for Ward residents to work close to home, with some people even living in the same building where a commercial office is located.

The original Ward master plan noted that “development will be adjusted to reflect evolving needs of the community and accommodate changing market conditions.” However, the plan also outlined “vertical” scenarios to show how the community development could occur over land blocks from the street level to the amenity roofs atop high-rise towers – which would be developed wither individually or concurrently (page 55 of the master plan).

Design Strategies

The Ward Village master plan outlines four design strategies for “creating an environment that fosters livability and creativity.” Ward Village was planned to be designed around these “cornerstones”:

An early concept from LandDesign.
An early concept from LandDesign.
Ward Village Gateway Towers - a former concept replaced by Victoria Place.
Ward Village Gateway Towers - a former concept replaced by Victoria Place.
A later concept by VisualHouse. This concept is now reality.
A later concept by VisualHouse. This concept is now reality.


Ward Village was intended to have a “comprehensive and multi-modal plan for the travel needs of people living, working and visiting Ward Neighborhood,” says the original master plan. Ward is one mile southeast from Downtown Honolulu and two miles northwest of Waikiki, bordering Ala Moana Boulevard (leading to the Honolulu International Airport, Downtown and Waikiki Beach), and the master plan outlined the different modes of transportation to optimize the community’s accessibility.


Before creating the new community, the master plan detailed the existing infrastructure: storm drainage, sanitary sewers, potable water, natural gas, electric and telecommunications.

It was concluded that adequate utility service was already available in the Ward neighborhood. However, for safety and aesthetic reasons, utilities were recommended to be placed underground, and some sanitary and sewage lines needed to be relocated to account for construction plans.

Auahi Street was planned to serve as a central utility corridor for the community with sanitary sewers, storm drains, water lines, gas, electric and telecommunications configured in a “service spine.”


In alignment with the desires of HCDA’s Mauka Area Plan, the original master plan for Ward called for “the development of livable, master planned urban communities in Kaka‘ako that are both sustainable and more effective in the use of land and natural resources.”

To meet these aspirations, Ward Village was designed to have over 4,000 residential units on 60 acres of land, what typically would take 840 acres of land on Oahu, according the plan (page 98).

In addition to density and land required, Ward was planned to be sustainable in the following measures:

Integration of cultural resources and community engagement were also central components of the Ward Village master plan.

In summary, the original Ward Village master plan submitted in 2008 and approved in 2009, details how the proposed neighborhood would be consistent with the state’s vision for development of Kaka‘ako, as detailed in the Mauka Area Plan and Rules.

The vision for Ward Village was to develop an urban village neighborhood, great public spaces and make connections with a variety of transportation methods. To do this, the plan proposed new vehicular and pedestrian connections, mixed-used zoning, increased building heights (400 feet), reserved housing, extensive streetscapes and public spaces, parking, public facilities and the integration of purposeful design strategies.

How has the Ward Village Master Plan evolved over time?

When the Ward Village master plan was approved by HCDA, it included 22 new residential towers with a lot of flexibility. How the residential buildings, commercial offices, restaurants, streetscapes and more would specifically be built was not completely defined.

Instead, the master plan proposed overarching elements for the land blocks totaling over 2.5 million square feet:

When Ward Village’s ownership transitioned from General Growth to Howard Hughes, the renderings of buildings and the locations of greenspaces and pathways did change somewhat from the renderings in the original plan. But the overarching elements that were approved by HCDA remained.

The most recent map released by Ward Village.
The most recent map released by Ward Village.

Now, as Howard Hughes has begun to develop Ward Village, they have collaborated with architects, engineers and designers to detail what each building and space will look like. The Ward Village community map now offers further details about where each residential tower will be located, along with green spaces and vehicular and pedestrian pathways. And since many residential towers have already been built – along with commercial spaces and streetscaping – community members can already witness how the original master plan is unfolding.

Today, Ward Village is already a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood with restaurants, recreational faculties, retail shops, green areas and more. More than a thousand people already call Ward Village home in one of the completed towers, and more people have already secured coveted residential spaces in buildings that are under construction. As the construction of Ward Village unfolds, the overarching elements of the originally proposed master plan are coming to fruition, but instead of 22 new developments, it will include 14.

A sunset viewed from Waiea.
A sunset viewed from Waiea.

Completed residential towers:

Residential towers in development:

In additional to towers offering both residential and commercial spaces, renderings of public green spaces have also been released. Victoria Ward Park, Ka La‘i o Kukuluāe‘o Park and Diamond Head Plaza Park are expected green spaces in Ward Village, bringing to life a key component of the master plan’s vision.

Will the Ward Village Master Plan change in the future?

Ward Village is rapidly evolving under the vision of developer Howard Hughes. However, the master plan has only been partially implemented thus far – with more specific details yet to be defined and approved by HCDA.

Howard Hughes has contracted SCB, a national architecture, interior design and planning firm, “to update and develop in further detail the partially implemented Ward Village Master plan. Updates to the plan aim to address emerging issues associated with the development phasing, proposed building programs, quality of life goals, and a refined approach towards the district’s public realm. Innovative architecture and landscape design in support of a high quality of life are key goals of the Master Plan that aims to blend cutting-edge private development with exciting recreational and cultural amenities,” says SCB.

The designed pedestrian bridge aimed at helping residents walk to Ala Moan Beach Park.
The designed pedestrian bridge aimed at helping residents walk to Ala Moan Beach Park.

The details of some key features of the master plan have yet to unfold, but community members can expect the following elements of the master plan to be constructed in the future:

While the original Ward Neighborhood Master Plan detailed the foundational elements to transform the community into the live, work and play neighborhood that is coming to fruition today, only time will tell how all the approved elements of the master plan will be constructed. However, community members can expect the construction of Ward Village to continue to slightly evolve to meet differing demands while also retaining the vision of “bringing new life and opportunity to the heart of Honolulu.”

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