Doug Johnstone, Director of Development, Ward Village, The Howard Hughes Corporation
From his early days at Punahou School, Doug Johnstone appreciated the value of balancing personal passions with collaboration and a sense of community. He looked up to colleagues who could focus on multiple disciplines, make time to do what they loved and simultaneously give back to the community. He noticed that he always performed better with the proper balance of work and play and that he was happier and more productive when part of a cooperative effort. “I look back on those formative years and a lot of my best lessons are from teachers and coaches who taught me how to push myself, play well with others and be a good teammate,” he says. “You could never have too big of an ego with all these great people around you.”
This mindset served him well during his days at Stanford University, where he juggled economics and a spot on the NCAA Division I varsity volleyball team. After college, Johnstone carried these skills over to the real world at Los Angeles consulting firm Alvarez and Marcel and later as vice president of Cyburt Hall Partners, where he oversaw opportunistic investment and development with institutional jointventure partners.
While earning his chops on the West Coast, Johnstone’s close network of friends and family back home helped him keep a finger on the pulse of Hawai‘i’s business landscape. In 2009, he jumped at the chance to manage the commercial real estate division of Kamehameha Schools’ Bishop Estate endowment. At a dynamic time when ground leases were expiring or transitioning from passive to active, he put his experience to use unearthing opportunities to add value to various properties within the $2.5 billion real estate portfolio. The Kamehameha Schools role also helped him get reacquainted with the local market and the many players in construction and design.
“We’re trying to create a critical mass for this area, something that can be a game changer for the city of Honolulu.”
Today Johnstone is director of development at The Howard Hughes Corporation, where he’s managing development of the 60-acre Ward Village community between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. He was attracted to the ambition and scale of the project’s master plan and signed on in November 2012. Within a year, his team completed the 60,000-square foot expansion of Ward Village Shops and launched sales on two residential towers, Anaha and Waiea. He now oversees multiple aspects of the ongoing development, including legal entitlement and land use, design, engineering and building sales teams. He’s also handling the leasing side of the projects, coordinating with tenants for move-in by late 2016 and mid-2017.
Johnstone is responsible for incorporating local culture and historical influences into the very progressive and dynamic build-out of the Ward area. As a local boy who surfs, paddles canoe and plays beach volleyball, he’s adamant about balancing the area’s progress with sustainability efforts and natural-resource development. Instituting measures like water-efficient landscaping, energy efficiency, minimized site disturbance in design and construction and reduction of light pollution have made Ward Village the largest project in the country and the first in Hawai‘i to receive LEED for Neighborhood Development Platinum certification. “This is the front row of Ala Moana and we’re going to be staring at it for the rest of our lives, so it better be great,” he says. “It’s going to be the quality that Honolulu deserves.”
What Johnstone is most proud of, though, is the way the Ward Village revitalization is bringing people together. “The key to keeping things moving in the right direction is acknowledging that there are a lot of pros and being able to tap into their different specialties to create something special,” he says. “So many industries are touched by these deals. Even though we’re a small team, things really scale up with a ripple effect. Through the many different phases and scopes, it feels like half of downtown is working toward the same goal.”
At the end of the day, it’s the user experience that Johnstone is trying to perfect.
While commercial spaces tend to be fragmented in Honolulu, he and his team are dedicated to creating an inclusive, multi-use landscape that charms visitors and O‘ahu residents, inviting them to enjoy the outdoor spaces, street scapes, shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
He’s working on creating continuity from block to block and improving connectivity for pedestrians in the district.
Through every step of the process, Johnstone relies on constant collaboration with the many professionals involved to help ensure Ward Village becomes a user-friendly, community-oriented destination that sublimely balances both form and function. “The exciting thing is you don’t really know what it’s going to become, but you forge this atmosphere where social, organic things can happen. We’re trying to create a critical mass for this area, something that can be a game changer for the city of Honolulu.”
1240 Ala Moana Boulevard, Suite 601