Kakaako. This live, work and play neighborhood appeals to foodies, families, young professionals, retirees, and anyone looking to make enjoying life a higher priority.

Located on 88 pedestrian-friendly blocks — 600 acres between Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu — Kakaako has evolved from a mostly warehouse/light industrial district into an upscale, trendy residential-mixed use, urban community, complete with cafes, shops, upscale restaurants, local businesses, an art community, and nightclubs.

As the urban core of Honolulu, Kakaako currently features a wide variety of metro-cool condos, price-tagged from the mid $300,000s to more than $20 million — including some of the highest condo price tags in the state’s history.

For starters, the no frills units provide owners with arguably one of the best locations to live on the island, with easy freeway access, no commuting to work — some can even walk to work — along with Ala Moana Beach Park, Waikiki, restaurants, shops, theater, museums, nightlife. Higher end units and over-the-top, ultra-luxury condos offer all this and more — depending on the building, unmatched amenity lists may include a high-floor infinity-edge lap pool, theater room, spa, tennis, volleyball court, putting green, fitness and yoga center, barbecue pavilions, children’s play area, and even a dog park. One building has a glass-bottom swimming pool that juts out 15 feet overhanging the sidewalk on Queen Street seven stories below.

So, while the ultra-luxury condos are making the headlines, there are buildings in Kakaako specifically reserved for Hawaii residents, such as The Block, featuring condos at prices starting in the mid $300,000s for studios, the $400,000s for 1-bedroom units, and $600,000 for a 2-bedroom loft. This boutique affordable building is pet-friendly, and units are stocked with a Bosch washer/dryer, GE refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave. Buyers must qualify financially, earning less than 140 percent of the median income for the area. For specific income limits, go to: click here and go to “2017 HCDA AMI.”

Built in 2015, there are resale units available at 801 South Street and include 2-bedrooms from the mid $600,000s with no income restrictions. Other mid-range resales include a 2-bedroom at 1133 Waimanu with 1-parking listed for $499,999. Soon to be part of Ward Village, the A‘ali‘i tower will soon feature brand new efficiency units and lower prices (details below).

The building boom in Kakaako is the result of several decades of efforts to design and transition the neighborhood into a residential district while safeguarding its long-standing sense of community and rich history. The boom has created an estimated 40,000 jobs, and is all fueled by a tremendous demand for housing located close to town and jobs, eliminating traffic and commuting issues for residents.

Besides the coveted location, Kakaako is intentionally designed as a trendy, upscale, community driven, urban gathering place, where everything — from the beaches and coffee shops to the concerts and boutiques — is walkable. You can walk everywhere. Because isn’t that the ultimate? To close the door behind you and walk to wherever it is you want to go? What better way to create a real connection between neighbors and business owners.

Experts estimated roughly 70 percent of the buyers in Kakaako are local residents, with 30 percent from the mainland and other parts of the world. The appeal is most definitely universal. There is no predominant demographic.

And while new shops are open, and other sections of the overall plan are under construction, the long-term overhaul of Kakaako is still very much “in progress” — making it a good time to get in on the ground floor of the next hottest, most vibrant residential community on Oahu.

Regular community events, such as Eat the Street and the Honolulu Night Market draw thousands every month, as do classic arts events like the symphony, concerts, opera and the ballet at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center. Bookstores, movie theaters at Ward Centers, the Honolulu Museum of Art, shopping, restaurants and Ala Moana Beach Park, round out the area’s culture identity.

Here are some of the highlights of this revitalized waterfront neighborhood:

With prices tentatively starting in the $300,000s, condo units at A‘ali‘i will include highly efficient studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom residences and will embrace cool “smart living” design options, which maximize space. Studios will measure a well-organized 277 to 373 square feet of living area, the 1-bedrooms will measure approximately 430 to 624 square feet, and the 2-bedrooms, from 695 to 835 square feet. (Exact square footages and prices are subject to change). The 42-story tower will feature 750 units, 150 of which will be designated for those who meet residency, income, and asset restrictions as set forth by Hawaii Community Development Authority’s Mauka Area rules Reserved Housing Income requirements. Parking stalls are planned to be included with each unit.

“The units will generally be smaller than average to achieve the developer’s (The Howard Hughes Corporation) pricing goals, due to current high construction costs, but A‘ali‘i’s prime location, awesome views, abundant amenities, built-in furniture and other smart living features will make up for the size for certain segments of the market,” says Tracy Yamato, Realtor Associate with Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties and expert buyer’s agent specializing in new and newer condos in Kakaako for 25 years.

“I have lived in Kakaako for almost 20 years, and wouldn’t live anywhere else,” says Yamato. “The convenience of never having to worry about traffic, within walking distance, a bike ride or five minute drive to a plethora of recreational, dining, entertainment, and shopping options is unparalleled on Oahu and in Hawaii. Not to mention spectacular views, and being a part of the gentrification of urban Honolulu is exciting — always something going on.”

Planned amenities at A‘ali‘i include a recreation deck with pools, cabana, BBQ’s, large indoor-outdoor sky deck on the 42nd floor, fitness club and yoga studio both with numerous gathering areas. Sales office to open soon. Stay tuned.

BikeShare Hawaii
Kakaako is set up ideally for walking, but if your destination is a little further than that, check out BikeShare Hawaii’s 100 stations and 1,000 bikes available from Waikiki to Chinatown. There are 25 stations in Kakaako alone. Conveniently located, the bike-share program, which debuted in June, was instantly embraced with nearly 5,000 riders in the first week — Kakaako locations reportedly had the most popular “Biki stops.” Rentals are available by the half hour, or with a pass allowing hours that you can use whenever you like. Take a bike to work, get some exercise or go sightseeing. Sign up online or at any station kiosk.

South Shore Market
Part of Ward Village’s blending of the old and the new, is the South Shore Market. With concrete floors reminiscent of the warehouses that once made up much of Kakaako, this 25,000 square foot urban retail space features 17 merchants, locally-made products, beachwear, accessories for the home, ice cream, pizza, coffee, and the works of local artists and designers. The modern design, community vibe, and open tables make South Shore Market an inviting gathering place. Shops include fishcake, Big Island Delights, Lucy’s Lab Creamery, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Cameron Hawaii, Big Bad Wolf, Eden in Love, Flotsam & Co., Holoholo Market & Café, Mori by Art + Flea, Salvage Public, and more. Located on the corner of Auahi Street and Queen Lane, across from Tango Contemporary Café.

Located on the corner of Keawe and Auahi streets, SALT is an 85,000 square-foot retail, restaurant, and mixed-use space. Named after the salt ponds for which the area was once known, SALT is a city block featuring modern design and adaptive re-use of existing structures, all intended to honor the spirit of the past while looking forward to the future. The gathering place includes trendy restaurants, including Moku Kitchen, Bevy, and Highway Inn.

One of the entrepreneurial businesses at SALT is Happiness U, offering classes and programs that focus on positivity, personal growth and self-development. This is the only business in the state of Hawaii that provides this unique in-person inspiration and high-level guidance for modern day life.

Don’t miss SALT at Our Kakaako’s Honolulu Night Market — Oahu’s biggest neighborhood block party. This food and shopping evening changes every month, with entertainment and an environment perfect for neighbors, family and friends to gather. For location and dates, go https://www.facebook.com/HonoluluNightMarket/


Article originally appeared in the September version of Island Homes Collection. Written by Lisa Scontras.