As the Columbia community begins to settle in with its new (insert your own “relationship analogy” here: partner, step-dad, drummer, etc..), John DeWolf; it may be instructive to look broadly at Howard Hughes Corporation. This morning, HHC announced David Striph as the Senior Vice President position for its Hawaiian assets.
This announcement is significant because, although half-a-world away, the HHC (nee GGP) owned Ward Centers, located in Honolulu’s Ala Moana District has progressed on a roughly parallel track with Columbia, Maryland. During the mid-2000’s, then GGP embarked on a master planning process for both Columbia and the Ward Centers. In each case, GGP needed zoning changes to realize the master plans. In Hawaii, the Ward Center master plan was submitted to the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
Subsequent meetings generated dozens of supporters and many that opposed the Master Plan. To get a bit of the flavor surrounding the master plan, here is a report from the October 16, 2008 Honolulu Star Bulletin:
There were people both in support and opposition to the plan, which demolishes most of the existing buildings at Ward over the next 20-plus years, transforming the skyline with up to 4,300 more residential units in the form of mid- and high-rises throughout the 60-acre neighborhood.
[A] group calling itself the Kakaako Coalition held a rally at Sheridan Community Park an hour and a half before yesterday's public hearing.
Carrying signs and wearing red T-shirts, the group's position was that HCDA should require an environmental impact statement and traffic study before considering approval of the plan.
[M]any stakeholders were concerned as well about preserving open space and view planes, which could be blocked by high-rises along Ala Moana.
In addition, Frierson said, the neighborhood needs more affordable housing and fewer upscale projects targeting second-home owners.
Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
Moreover, the Hawaii Community Development Authority approved the zoning (8-1) in January of 2009 and the Howard County Council approved local Columbia zoning (5-0) in February 2010.
Another interesting point to consider is that although the Ward Centers is on 1/10th the land of Downtown Columbia (60 acres v. approx 600 acres in Maryland), the magnitude of development is fairly similar. In the press release announcing John DeWolf, the Downtown Columbia project is described as follows:
Columbia Town Center has an approved master plan to create up to 13 million square feet of mixed-used development. The plan includes up to 5,500 residential units, approximately one million square feet of retail, approximately five million square feet of commercial office space and 640 hotel rooms.
Whereas the Ward Centers described in the HHC press release for David Striph are described as:
Ward Centers is comprised of approximately 60 acres situated along Ala Moana Beach Park and is within one mile of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Ward Centers currently is a 550,000-square-foot shopping district containing six specialty centers and over 135 unique shops, a variety of restaurants and an entertainment center, which includes a 16-screen movie theater. In January 2009, the Hawaii Community Development Authority approved a 15-year master plan, which entitles a mixed-use development encompassing up to 9.3 million square feet, including up to 7.6 million square feet of residential (4,300 units), five million square feet of retail and four million square feet of office, commercial and other uses.
So is there any insight into Howard Hughes Corporation, given that they announced the hiring of two men (yes, I noticed that too) to carry out two master planned developments in the span of four days? The jury is out (being that hiring announcements are a bit formulaic), but there are some clues in each announcement.
The introductory paragraph in each press release emphasizes the accomplishments of each Senior Vice-President. For comparison, here is the background on John DeWolf:
Mr. DeWolf brings over 30 years of real estate experience to his new role. Most recently, Mr. DeWolf ran his own consulting practice leading real estate strategy, portfolio management and start-up guidance for multi-billion dollar businesses. Mr. DeWolf was Executive Vice President Real Estate/Strategic Initiatives for New York & Company where he oversaw the addition of 225 stores, the closing of 100 stores, and downsizing of over 250 stores. Additionally, as head of strategic initiatives he managed the development of two accessory store concepts and four new store prototypes. Previously, Mr. DeWolf had senior leadership roles with New England Development, Woolworth Corporation and The Disney Stores, Inc.
And the background on David Striph:
An industry veteran, Mr. Striph has financed and managed over two billion dollars worth of real estate assets during his career, including mixed-use, retail and high-end residential projects. Prior to joining Howard Hughes, Mr. Striph served as Senior Managing Director at Westmount Realty Capital, a Dallas, Texas-based real estate investor. Mr. Striph was also Managing Director at Fortress Investment Group, Vice President at Fremont Investment & Loan, and President of Amresco Capital Trust.
In addition, each press release provides complimentary quotes from Howard Hughes Corporation Leadership. John DeWolf receives the following from HHC CEO David Weinreb:
"The Maryland Communities, Landmark and West Windsor are important strategic assets for the company. John brings the acumen and experience necessary to ensure that the full potential values of these key assets are realized, ” David R. Weinreb, Chief Executive Officer of The Howard Hughes Corporation, stated. “John’s appointment is a clear example of our dedication to identifying the best leaders for our management team, and our commitment to the time and exploration necessary to find the ideal leaders for each vital role.”
While David Striph is the recipient of accolades from Weinreb and HHC President Grant Herlitz:
"David’s multi-faceted background in commercial real estate makes him the ideal leader for our assets in Hawaii,” stated Grant Herlitz, President of The Howard Hughes Corporation.
“Ward Centers is a key example of the untapped value within The Howard Hughes Corporation’s portfolio. We have the approvals to redevelop the property with up to 9.3 million square feet of mixed-use development,” stated David R. Weinreb, the company’s Chief Executive Officer. “This opportunity has the potential to include thousands of residential units with unobstructed ocean views and to materially enhance the property’s retail presence.”
In the end, it is all too early to make any judgments about either executive, but it will certainly be interesting the observe the trajectory of both projects as each of these individuals fulfill their roles in their respective communities.