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K?hala’s Shifting Vision

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The most expensive homes on O‘ahu are in the neighborhood of K?hala. And the priciest ones of all are on K?hala Avenue, a street of some changes over time. Pacific Business News editor-in-chief Kam Napier has more.



Realtor Tracy Allen has been buying and selling Kahala homes for clients for more than 20 years. She remembers when her parents sold their own leasehold home in 1975 for just $150,000. In 2017 dollars, that would be about $681,000. These days, she says, just securing a lot in the neighborhood could set you back $1.3 million. The median sales price of a single-family home in the Waialae-Kahala area is currently $1.8 million.


A drive down Kahala Avenue is like a mini-history lesson in upscale residential architecture in Hawaii. You’ll see modest board-and-batten bungalows. Then gargantuan statements homes from the 1980s and 1990s. Then a lighter Tropical Modern look from the early 2000s. Many of the newest homes going up are in the currently fashionable retro-modernist mode, with lots of angles and hard straight lines, and surfaces of metal, stone, wood and glass.


Speaking of the 1980s, the lingering effect of one famous buyer from that era can still be seen on the avenue. Back then, Genshiro Kawamoto purchased 31 homes in the neighborhood, 27 of them right on Kahala Avenue. The homes became notorious eye sores in the years since. When Kawamoto was arrested in Japan on tax evasion charges, A&B Properties was able to convince him to sell the whole collection to them for $98 million. It has since torn down or rehabbed the properties and resold nearly all of them. For example, an empty lot at 4585 Kahala Avenue, where Kawamoto once had an estate, is on the market for just under $16 million. What you get for that is one acre of land, right on the beach, ready for you to build your dream home.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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