HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a story you heard first on Hawaii News Now -- Japanese billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto has sold 31 of his Hawaii properties, including all 27 of his holdings on Kahala Avenue, to local real estate developer Alexander and Baldwin for $98 million.
"It's something a little bit different than what we've done before, but it is we think a great value on some fantastic real estate and we think that our shareholders will like it, the community will like it and it's sort of a win win win," said Chris Benjaimin, A&B's president and chief operation officer.
Area residents have complained for years about the degraded condition of Kawamoto's Kahala Avenue properties. Neighbor Richard Turbin says his nightmare is finally over.
"I think it's fantastic news! I'm really happy. I think that's the best that could have happened—a long-standing, responsible, kama'aina development corporation that has a commitment to the people of Hawai'i. I'm sure that they'll do a fabulous redevelopment of the Kawamoto property and it can be a new day for Kahala," said Turbin, the former Chair of the Waialae Kahala Neighborhood Board.
According to Benjamin, A&B first submitted an offer to Kawamoto four years ago, but he turned it down. The company tried again about three months ago and this time around, the transaction happened quickly.
"We think there's a lot of potential for us to create value through cleaning up the properties and selling off the lots. In some limited cases, we may build some homes on the lots before we sell them, but in most cases we're expecting to simply clean up the lots and sell them and we think that will be a very good investment that will also benefit the neighborhood in the process," explained Benjamin, adding there are no plans to re-zone or build multi-family residences.
City officials confirm Kawamoto has been fined $58,000 under property blight laws, and all but $1,000 of his violations have been paid.
"We have a problem that's going to be leaving our shores. It's going to take away energy that we're devoting to this area, because of the problems that he was creating not being responsible to the neighborhood. It allows the city to redeploy its efforts to other parts of the island and in the long run, it helps enhance this neighborhood along one of our most beautiful coastlines, so I was very happy," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Kawamoto isn't gone for good, A&B officials confirm he held on to one of his homes which sits on three adjacent lots. Plus, there are also the homeless families Kawamoto invited to move-in rent-free at three of his former properties.
"We were pleased today to be able for the first time to reach out to those tenants and meet with them and first of all indicate to them that we will honor the terms of their lease with Mr. Kawamoto, which goes until the middle of March next year, but also we began the discussion about helping them to find alternative housing at the end of that time period," Benjamin said.
The 27 Kahala Avenue properties acquired by A&B Properties, a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, represent nearly 16% of the residential lots on the famous thoroughfare, which travels between Diamond Head and the Kahala Hotel and Resort, the company says. About half of the lots were reported to have ocean frontage or beach access.
The transaction also includes three properties in Windward Oahu and one 146-acre agricultural parcel on Maui.