Waterfront Plaza

In 1986, Waterfront Management Ltd. (Honolulu) began construction of a low-rise office-building complex, which extends five stories into the sky and sits on 8.7 acres in downtown Honolulu. Restaurants, shops and a movie theater occupy 515,419 square feet of space in the first floors of the buildings. The entire Waterfront Plaza complex features 3.5 acres of "green space"-the largest of any of Honolulu's downtown locations. It consists of lawns, shrub borders, display beds, containerized plantings, planter boxes-many on rooftops and ledges-and a rooftop deck garden.

Emphasis on landscape gardening began with the vision of Bruce Stark, the developer of Waterfront Plaza. His dedication and determination to create an inviting workplace in the park-like landscape, as well as a pleasant setting for dining, were the driving forces behind Waterfront Management's solid commitment to instituting and maintaining high-quality landscaping.

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The Waterfront Plaza team aims to be as state-of-the-art as possible. Our commitment to the highest industry standards is initiated by our firm belief that we can save time, money and effort by working in a well-organized manner with the best technologies available.

Maintenance care and restrictions Our commitment to enhancing our immediate environment works in tandem with our desire to protect the natural environment around us. We are located on the shoreline and must give consideration to possible leaching of fertilizers and pesticides. Organic fertilizers and fortified mulches make up the bulk of the plant foods we use. Therefore, we need to use specialty palm spikes, and water-soluble and super-phosphate fertilizers only sparingly.

Care of our 0.75 acre of St. Augustinegrass begins each April with lawn renovation. After scalping, we apply a layer of composted wood chips fortified with sewage sludge. Then aeration begins. Later in the season, we apply a pelletized organic soil conditioner. The use of mulching mowers helps us reduce fertilizer expenses. An annual renovation and use of low, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer reduces our pest levels and allows us to achieve excellent control of disease, eliminating the need for herbicide, insecticide or fungicide applications.

Waterfront Plaza is one of the larger water users in Honolulu. Fine-tuning the irrigation schedules, maintaining and adjusting irrigation systems, conversion to drip or micro-irrigation and the installation of xeriscaping has prompted the city to ask us, "How do you manage to cut water use each year?" Basically, we redesigned the lawn for better coverage, cycled irrigation to prevent run-off, and we also redesigned our various plantings to establish combinations with compatible water needs.

Beauty despite traffic High wind and close proximity to the ocean make it hard work to keep this city block looking green and healthy. Our greatest challenge by far is the high volume of traffic due to the multiple uses of the site. Mornings start early when restaurants prepare for the first office workers in search of a cup of coffee. We must water the planters early so that the floors are not wet and all the hoses are put away when stores and offices open. The increasing number of people throughout the morning curtails work in congested areas, and our workers must shift to low-traffic areas.

Crowds peak at lunchtime, when transporting of tools and equipment around the site becomes hazardous and difficult. In the afternoon, as the parking garage empties of office workers, it quickly fills up again with theater, restaurant and nightclub patrons. The greatest amount of evening plant damage occurs on the weekends. However, special events scheduled during the weeknights contribute to smashed shrubs, trampled ground covers and vandalized irrigation. Although plantings in high-traffic areas suffer the most damage, the high visibility of these areas demand that we keep them looking good. We perform all maintenance before the daily foot traffic begins and curtails our ability to work safely.

Waterfront Plaza has several boxed planters perched on the rooftops in hard-to-reach areas. They improve the overall aesthetic appeal of the area, but they are difficult to access and maintain. We schedule any fertilizing, pruning, irrigating or pest and weed control of these boxes when the restaurants are closed and the office workers are not afoot.

We try to select plant material that will thrive in our busy environment while providing the most appealing landscaping possible. In 1996, we installed a xeriscape along the length of the plaza. The landscape features dry, wind-tolerant plants, including a collection of Sansevieria and Hawaiian native plants. Red and black volcanic-cinder mulches accent plant colors and forms. In other areas, we use colorful foliage and flowering shrubs and groundcovers to create color and interest around the property. The owner's desire for color and variety requires special design and plant selection. Proper selection provides needed color but keeps labor and cost less than the expense of annuals.

Waterfront Plaza has received recognition with two beautification awards from the Outdoor Circle (1994 to 1995 and 1996 to 1997). The Outdoor Circle is a non-profit organization promoting civic improvement. The award is offered to "properties deserving special acclaim for a beautifully maintained landscape." In 1997, in addition to its Professional Grounds Management Society's Grand Award, Waterfront Plaza received the overall Building of the Year award by the Building Owners and Managers Association.

D. Mark Gwinner is director of landscape for Waterfront Management Ltd. (Honolulu, Hawaii).

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