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Industrial Strength

Last year's sale of the Damon Estate's commercial property portfolio to Massachusetts-based HRPT Properties Trust created a buzz in the real estate world that was heard from Bishop Street to Boston. Nearly $500 million for 224 acres that have had few, if any, improvements done since Mapunapuna was developed more than 40 years ago? All that money for land that is leased to 137 different tenants on 186 separate parcels? Plus, some of the lots on the below-sea-level Mapunapuna Industrial Park are underwater when the tides rise every other week.

Photo: Kent S. Hwang

However, visit the area and it's difficult to imagine a better location for commercial property. Sitting at the edge of Honolulu and a stone's throw away from the airport, Mapunapuna is bordered by Nimitz Highway and the H-1 on one side and Highway 72 on the other. It's a pocket of commerce squeezed into a strip of land, where the city meets the suburbs.

HEAVY TRAFFIC: The intersection of Pukoloa and Mapunapuna streets. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

Mapunapuna wasn't always such a prime piece of land; most of it wasn't even land 50 years ago. Largely a wetland, the area was part of an ahupuaa (land division from the mountains to the sea), bequeathed to Samuel Mills Damon II from Bernice Pauahi Bishop a month before she died of breast cancer in 1883. Damon and his family would build several magnificent estates in the hills above Mapunapuna. The construction of the H-1 freeway permanently altered this elegant finger of land, and in 1960, the Damon Estate decided to develop Mapunapuna, filling in the ponds and laying down streets.

Every other week, with the rising of the tides, the intersection of Ahua and Killihau Streets is covered by at least a foot and a half of brackish water. Employees at Ron’s Auto Parts & Performance regularly consult tidal charts posted in their offices to determine where to park or when to leave for the day. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

Mapunapuna means "bubbling" in Hawaiian, a reference to the wet, boggy conditions. However, it's also an appropriate name for an area that today is teeming with commercial activity, everything from automobiles and appliances to masonry and marble. There's even a mortuary in the area. With Hawaii's economy booming, the streets of the area are busier than ever.

Hardware Hawaii is one of Mapunapuna’s newest tenants, having opened a warehouse there about three years ago. The change in landlords doesn’t worry Hardware Hawaii’s management. “Frankly, we’re just too busy trying to make money to think about it,” says marketing director Larry Lanning. Just look at employees Nick Ozoa, Jeff Maie and Ashton Santos. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

With a new owner and landlord, Mapunapuna's landscape could be drastically altered again: selling off and subdividing parcels, development of some lots, rehabilitation of others. Or, nothing could happen at all for the next 50 years. One thing is certain, however, Mapunapuna will be busy working.

IT’S THE REAL THING: Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Hawaii, No. 63 on the list, has its offices on Mapunapuna Street. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

99 Ranch Market helps satisfy cravings for Asian foods. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

An automobile gets attention at Ron’s Auto Parts & Performance. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

A chain link fence separates pallets at ABC Supply Co. Inc. from a Jaguar. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

BRING HOME THE BACON: Heavy machinery lines Bacon Universal Inc., No. 205 on the list. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

There’s a lot of lumber at Hardware Hawaii. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

Vaovai H. Sua does some heavy lifting for Webco Dodge Inc., No. 92 on the list. Photo: Kent S. Hwang

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