Local real estate company buys 27 Kahala properties from Japanese billionaire

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Alexander & Baldwin has purchased the Kahala properties belonging to embattled Japanese billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto for $98 million.

Kawamoto bought residential properties in Kahala like he was playing Monopoly. Then he turned over those houses to needy families he deemed worthy.

But many of those lots fell into disrepair and the Japanese investor was forced to pay fines when the city cleaned them up.

Now, those properties become the responsibility of Alexander & Baldwin.

“So much better that a local corporation is going to buy it. I mean, especially a local corporation like A&B — a long time kamaaina company who has nothing but experience in developing Hawaii land,” Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board Member Richard Turbin said.

Alexander & Baldwin has been involved in a number of real estate transactions since the 1950s, but nothing perhaps as controversial as this.

“And while we certainly evaluated it from a lot of different angles in terms of what we do with the land, in some ways it was a relatively easy decision,” Alexander & Baldwin President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Benjamin said.

“It’s a sheer delight. I’m really happy because we’ve had so many problems. We really haven’t been able to get city action regarding the Kawamoto problem. My personal feeling is the city has been far too lenient with Mr. Kawamoto,” Turbin said.

With a shortage in housing inventory, and the high-rise development due in Kakaako, Turbin said he hoped the residential nature of the Kahala neighborhood would be preserved.

“Absolutely. There’s no question that these are going to remain single-family lots. This is all about trying to restore Kahala Avenue and that neighborhood to what it can be and once was. And we’re not going to change the character of the neighborhood,” Benjamin said.

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