Built to Lastby Allison Schaefers
Howard Hughes Corp.’s David Striph reaches great heights with his latest projects.
DAVID STRIPH, the top manager in Hawai’i for The Howard Hughes Corporation’s existing and developing real estate, has a bird’s-eye view of the ongoing construction within Ward Centers’ 60-acre complex from the roof deck of the company’s headquarters.
From his vantage point, Striph could clearly see construction workers putting the final touches on T.J. Maxx, which opened in May. He points out that the painting portion of a $3.5 million refurbishment at Ward Centre, next door, also is about 90 percent complete. If Striph walks to the other side, he can take in a Diamond Head vista and see the sun cast sparkles on the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a heady view from the top. But those who know Striph say that he isn’t the type of leader to take a long-angled approach. Most often, he’s on the ground where he can play a greater role in Kaka’ako’s emerging vision.
“I really think that we have the opportunity to make a huge impact on the city, because we are halfway between Waikiki and downtown, and we are the largest landowner in Kaka’ako by a long shot,” Striph says.
Ward Centers currently is a 550,000-square-foot shopping district with six specialty retail centers, including more than 135 shops, a variety of restaurants and an entertainment center with a 16-screen movie theatre. However, a 15-year master plan approved in 2009 by Hawaii Community Development Authority gives The Howard Hughes Corp. the right to put up to 9.3 million square feet of mixed-use development on its lands. The plan, which Howard Hughes Corp. intends to modify, allows for the construction of 4,300 residential units on 7.6 million square feet, 5 million square feet of retail and 4 million square feet of office, commercial and other uses.
“We are working on refining that plan. We’ve met with the state, city and county officials, and other members of the community to talk about it,” Striph says. “We want to listen and learn. We want to create a neighborhood here-one that reflects the history of this land, which goes back to Victoria Ward and her husband.”
In the next few months, Striph says that he will have more to say about the direction that Howard Hughes Corp. will take in Kaka’ako and at Ala Moana Center, where the company also owns the right to develop a residential condominium tower over the Nordstrom parking structure.
“We are redoing the design for the condominium tower,” he notes, adding that the project may go into sales by year’s end.
Howard Hughes also is close to signing a large national anchor to fill the 30,000-square-foot space left vacant by Borders Bookstore and hopes to sign a tenant to fill the space beneath T.J. Maxx at the Ward Village Shops, according to Striph.
Ida Teiti, owner of the Tiare Teiti in Ward Warehouse, is one of Striph’s recent local additions. She was selling Tahitian clothing out of her garage, when a chance encounter with Striph at a wine tasting led to the opening of her first storefront.
“I asked her husband where he got his cool-looking shirt and he said that she made it,” Striph shares. “I told her that she needed to sell them at Ward. When she said that she couldn’t afford it, I told her to come talk to me anyway.”
Tiare says she didn’t realize that Striph was serious until she saw his picture in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“There he was in the money section,” she says. “I just about choked. I went to see him and it’s been great. We opened last October.”
Striph said getting to know tenants like Teiti, and volunteering for the YMCA of Honolulu and NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, are part of what he likes most about his new job.
“I’m a people person,” says Striph, who comes from a family where relationships were important.
Although he has has only been in Honolulu for a year, he managed to be one of the most successful fundraisers for the YMCA of Honolulu’s annual support campaign, says Michael Broderick, president and CEO of YMCA of Honolulu.
“David is a very engaged board member. He cares deeply about youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, and has really committed himself to the Y,” Broderick adds.
Striph says he learned how much relationships matter from his parents, the late Burt and Marie Striph, who were married for 65 years.
“They taught me to be relationship-oriented,” says Striph. “I’ve been married to Carol for 29 years. I’ve made and kept friends at every place that I’ve ever worked.”
Striph points out that a decade-long friendship among David R. Weinreb, CEO of the Howard Hughes Corp., Grant Herlitz, the company’s president, and himself is the reason that he’s even in Hawai’i.
“They had a company based in Dallas and they needed a loan,” he says. “I made them a $45 million loan and we all became friends.”
After Ward Centers’ former owner General Growth Properties came out of bankruptcy and Howard Hughes emerged as a separate company, Weinreb and Herlitz took Striph to lunch and made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
Striph quickly convinced Howard Hughes employees in Hawai’i that he was the right man for the job, says Bobbie Lau, general manager of Ward Centers.
“He comes to us for our thoughts and ideas and he challenges us,” Lau says. “He’s not a micromanager, but he’s very available to us.”
Despite the pressure and pace of the job, Striph takes time to “kick his feet up on the desk” and brainstorm with his employees, she adds.
And, sometimes, Striph uses unconventional methods to keep employees on their toes, according to Lau.
“He’ll come out of his office, call out to a person, they’ll look up and he’ll throw a Nerf ball to them,” she says. “He’s a really fun person to work for in a professional way.”
Nicole Roberts, who worked with Striph from 1996 to 2000, describes him as the kind of manager who employees want to follow.
“I started as an administrative assistant in a bad economy and he gave me the chance to use my math degree as an analyst,” says Roberts. “He took me under his wing and opened up a door of opportunity for me that would not have existed if he had not been there to mentor me.”
Roberts, who is now a financial manager for Kaiser in Orange County, says that she models her own management style after Striph.
“He was genuine and transparent,” she says. “He was patient and understanding, and his ears were always open. I’d love to work for him again.”