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.
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.
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.
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.
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.