For years, there was a parking lot at the block bordered by Queen and Kamakee Streets and Ala Moana Boulevard. But where people used to park, a development will be going up where people will live.
Dozens of officials, including Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, turned dirt of the groundbreaking of Waiea, a luxury 35-story condominium. It's part of the Howard Hughes Corporation's plan to turn the retail area into a master planned community called Ward Village.
"We have three thousand people that work here every day. We have ten million shoppers every year. Yet nobody lives here today," said David Striph, the senior Hawaii Vice President for the Howard Hughes Corporation.
That will change over the next several years. Waiea is just the first mixed-use residential tower planned for Ward Village.
"We are in the midst of the greatest progression in city planning to move us into a 21st century community," Gov. Neil Abercrombie told the gathering.
The development has support in the Hawaiian community, including from cultural practitioners who worked with Ward Village developers.
"Wai is the rainwater. Wai once filled the freshwater ponds of this land. And 'ea' is life," said Kaanohi Kaleikini, explaining the development's name.
But it's also part of the increasing pace of development sprouting in Kakaako mauka of Ala Moana Boulevard, bringing with it concerns about more traffic and how it will affect people trying to go makai.
"I hope they understand that we need to preserve the ocean side," said Ronald Iwami, president of Friends of Kewalos. "And creating a wall of towers on the mauka side does affect access to the ocean side."
"I think this is an area that needs revitalization, and we're beginning that. So I think it's great for the community," said Striph. "We're going to keep it as a gathering place for our local community."
Construction on Waiea begins later this month, with units starting at more than $1 million. Over the next decade, Howard Hughes plans to have a mix of different residences, with units in a second project, Anaha, already up for sale.