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The Watermark Waikiki Tower - rendering inside

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The Watermark Waikiki Tower

Late takeover of Waikiki high-rise to delay sales


A San Diego company has taken over a planned upscale residential high-rise in Waikiki, pushing back sales and disrupting plans by a group of preferred prospective buyers who expected to make reservations yesterday at what was to be the newest condominium to hit the market.

Real estate development firm Intracorp San Diego is buying the land and development plans for The Watermark Waikiki, a 212-unit tower permitted for a 3-acre site bordered by Ala Wai Boulevard, Hobron Lane and Lipe'epe'e Street.

The 38-story project is one of several condos planned or under construction in Waikiki, including plans for a Donald Trump-branded tower on Saratoga Road and a project on land under and around the Wave Waikiki nightclub. Nearly complete is Lanikea on Kuhio Avenue, and nearby the low-rise Loft @ Waikiki expects to start coming out of the ground soon.

The Watermark sale, for an undisclosed price, is expected to close by the end of the month.

The seller is Irongate Capital Partners, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based investment and development firm that bought the property last year for $15.5 million and planned the Watermark.

Sales were scheduled to begin next weekend, with a group of about 30 VIP clients of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties given the first opportunity to make $50,000 deposits yesterday.

Many of the preferred prospective buyers, like Napa Valley, Calif., librarian Michele Woggon, flew into town for a reception expecting to make reservations.

Woggon said her broker called on Wednesday to say the early opportunity to buy was canceled, though the reception party would go on.

Rug pulled out of our feet is how Woggon described the situation. "This was supposed to be some exclusive thing with 30 VIPs," she said. "What are they planning now for people who came all the way here?"

It's out of Irongate's hands now, said Michael Pepper, an Irongate partner who said the VIP reception wasn't postponed because the deal with Intracorp could have fallen through. Pepper said project brokers were alerted as soon as the deal was assured late Tuesday.

Keith Fernandez, president and chief executive officer of Intracorp San Diego, said he only found out earlier this week about the reservation party, and will try to work with the group.

Obviously we want them as buyers, he said. "Certainly we're going to want to put them on a very special list because they made the effort to come here. But we will not be taking reservations."

Fernandez said his firm does not plan to make major changes to the project. "Our plan for the most part is to stay with what (Irongate) has done," he said.

Sales will probably be delayed until between mid-August to mid-September, with construction anticipated to start between October and November.

Prices are likely to be from around $700,000 to well over $1 million. "We're just getting into pricing," Fernandez said.

Intracorp San Diego is an urban residential development firm spun off from Canadian resort developer Intrawest Corp., and has sister companies in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Canada.

In late 2003, Intracorp San Diego explored buying a downtown Honolulu block overlooking Honolulu Harbor with the idea to develop a mid- to upper-market condo, but the plan turned out not to be economically feasible.

Fernandez, who joined the firm in 1997, was born in Hawai'i and is a Punahou School graduate who has worked for Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, Moloka'i Ranch and his own real estate development firm.

Irongate is a private firm with a low profile. The Watermark, previously dubbed The Ala Wai Gateway, was the company's first Hawai'i project.

Earlier this year, Irongate reached a tentative deal to develop a luxury condo with Trump as part of the Waikiki Beach Walk redevelopment by Outrigger Enterprises. That deal is still being finalized.

This article was brought to you by the Honolulu Advertiser

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This building is getting better.

How does this building and other buildings being proposed address the street? Does it completely ignore the public street environment? Do these developments provide ameneties and services to pedestrians and the public in general?

Great cities have vibrant URBAN streets, because urban developments often include facilities (store fronts or pocket parks) at street level within their property. Great urban environments have a tendency to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. There needs to be a balance of (semi-)public and private spaces in every development. This is the Urban pedestrian street environment we(Honolulu) should be demanding, rather than the contrived "urban pedestrain street environment," similar to the development now being fabricated at the Ward Village Development.

Anyone interested in high-rise design should look at some of the buildings being constructed in San Diego. Developers and their building designs must be responsive to their tenants, while respecting the idea of creating pedestrian-friendly urban environments. These types of developments are beneficial to all denizens of the area.


It is not enough to clap and cheer because a new building is being constructed in greater Honolulu. We should cheer great design and demand great design by demanding greater interaction between all parties involved.

Honolulu is a city...let us treat it like a city rather than a tropical paradise. A greater dichotomy can exist on Oahu; we must learn how to better distinguish the boundaries between city and country (paradise). I am not saying we should pave over everything green in Honolulu, but when or where construction happens demand great design!

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