The Hawaii Community Development Authority has approved two projects by Howard Hughes Corp. and MK Vida LLC that will add three more high rises to the fast-growing urban district of Kakaako.

Anthony Ching, executive director of HCDA, said that the projects are the last big developments he sees on the horizon because the market cycle for big projects is ending.

The approvals come just days before Gov. Neil Abercrombie leaves office, having presided over HCDA’s permitting of 17 residential projects, just shy of the 19 housing developments approved by all his predecessors combined since the redevelopment agency was founded in 1976.

View of construction cranes in Kakaako with future developments planned.  20 nov 2014. photo Cory Lum.

Construction cranes rise in Kakaako on Nov. 20.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Howard Hughes project, known as the Ward Gateway project, includes two mixed-use towers and a single acre public park. That includes 236 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space.

The MK Vida project includes one 39-story tower with 265 residences and a four-story parking garage. The project also includes 20,000 square feet of commercial space, 25,015 square feet of open space, and 6,755 square feet of recreation space.

Tuesday’s hearing was originally scheduled to be held in December, but was rescheduled to Nov. 25 because some participants were unable to attend on the original date.

Some residents feared that HCDA was hoping to push the project through before Gov.-elect David Ige, who has criticized Abercrombie’s policies in Kakaako, could take office Dec. 1. Ige said during a press conference earlier this month that he wasn’t aware that the projects were being considered.

In addition to greenlighting the projects, the HCDA board voted to raise Ching’s salary by 5 percent starting Jan. 1.

The agency also agreed to authorize Ching to enter into a 65-year lease with Ola Ka Ilima Lofts to facilitate an affordable rental housing project known as Artspace. That project will be up for a public hearing Dec. 17.

Although it was scheduled to do so, the board didn’t vote to approve recommendations from an internal report to alter the agency’s rules to provide more affordable housing. Instead, HCDA spokeswoman Lindsey Doi said the board voted to support general goals of building more low-income rentals, more moderate-income units and more market-rate units, as well as preserving qualified income units.

Doi said that the board decided to only vote on more general recommendations because it wanted to give the public more time to review the proposed rule changes that the board may take up again in the new year. Given the time-consuming rule-changing process, the new rules would likely not go into effect until 2017.

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