Rail property still hoping to be spared from demolition

Rail property still hoping to be spared from demolition

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At 1163 Kona Street there is a century's worth of stitches.

"My father came here in the 1800's with one of the first sewing machines in the islands," said Sonny Nelson, Art Nelson Sailmaker.

The Art Nelson Sailmaker business was sewn together back in 1899.

"There is tons of history here about the family," said Nelson, who is still working at the age of 81.

The sail makers once made the biggest sail ever.

"One sail was 1,680 pounds," said Nelson.

They made the sail for the original Hokuleia. Olympians won medals with their sails.

"This whole thing is more than a business to me," said Nelson.

Now the business may bust at the seam. Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) plans to tear down the building because a corner of the property is in line with the rail route.

"That's the painful part," said Nelson. "They want to wipe us out because they're never going to give us enough money to replace it."

It wasn't the company's first building, but they did build it custom to fit their needs in 1981.

So why can't they just move?

"Find a place for me. Find a place for me," said Nelson, saying they are close to the harbors and customers. They're also centrally located a block Ewa of Ala Moana Shopping Center.

"We have to approach this with the most sensitive and professional manner possible. We realize that we're knocking on the doors of individuals who didn't ask us to come," said Dan Grabauskas, Hart CEO.

Hart can't talk about specific negotiations, but there is still some wiggle room. For example if a property is on the list for a full acquisition there is a chance Hart could reevaluate and only take partial property. If not it is supposed to go beyond paying fair market value.

"If a company needs to be relocated we have costs to relocate them to another location, we have money we can make available to search for a new location, we even have money to advertise that such and such a company has moved to a new location and let their customers know," said Grabauskas. "We understand where they are coming from. We try to make full restitution and if necessary move them to another location and fund all those costs."

"We want to find a solution that works for all of us," said Larry Stenek, who works at Art Nelson Sailmaker. "Fighting is always a lose lose for everybody."

As sail makers they like the wind at their back. Right now the rail is in their face and the company is trying to stay afloat.

"It's not about money at this stage of the game. It's trying to keep this business going," said Nelson.

In this case the appraisal process is still ongoing. Nelson says he has hired his own appraisers and attorneys.

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