Honolulu rail authority files condemnation suit against Kakaako business

Dispute between rail authority, Kakaako property owner heads to court
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has filed a condemnation suit against a longtime Kakaako business.

But the company is fighting back, saying the rail authority is trying to force them to accept a low-ball offer for their land.

"Quite frankly, it angers me. I'm tired of the city and government, their abuse of power, their arrogance," said Steve Scott, chief executive of the popular Scott Hawaii footwear brand, which has operated out of its Kona Street location since 1955. "They just went ahead and filed suit without really getting back to us."

Back in 2016, Scott said rail officials offered him $410,000 for the 350-square foot parcel in front of his Kakaako office. He claims the deal fell through when HART began to have financial problems.

Two years later — even though land values have risen as much as 20 percent since then, according to some estimates — Scott says HART offered $15,000 dollars less than they had previously. When he didn't accept the offer fast enough, Scott says HART sued to condemn the land in court.

Rail officials told Hawaii News Now that the offer was reasonable, based on current appraisals, and that other land owners in the area have been accepting similar offers.

Experts say that as rail construction gets closer toward downtown and Kakaako, disputes like these will likely be more common. But what's unusual here, they say, is that HART lowered its original offer.

"The bad faith of lowering your price after you had a gentleman's agreement is going to create a lot of push back against HART," said real estate analyst Ricky Cassiday.

Scott says HART is banking on small businesses like his to give in.

"It's a government agency, and we're a small company, and we're going to have to incur legal and appraisal costs again," he said.

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