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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 7, 2001

Waimea Falls Park owner calls OHA's offer too low

By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer

The owner of Waimea Falls Park has rejected the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' $5.2 million offer for the North Shore property, calling it "extremely low" and saying the park's infrastructure alone is valued at $11 million.

New York developer Christian Wolffer did not make a counter offer in his response to OHA's July 19 letter expressing interest in buying the 1,875-acre preserve.

However, Wolffer indicated that he expects to get more for the property that he saved from the auction block in 1996 when his group, Euro Investors, took on the $12 million Bank of Hawaii loan taken out by Attractions Hawai'i.

He put the property up for sale last year for $25 million and then placed it under bankruptcy protection. The price has been reduced to $19 million.

"The infrastructure alone of the park was evaluated for $11 million, which does not account for the land value, botanical gardens and a lot of the other improvements," Wolffer said in a letter received by OHA.

Nonetheless, he said, "We would be happy to discuss this further with you, and should there be any interest we would be happy to continue our conversation."

Kevin Shiraki, the real estate agent representing OHA in the Waimea Falls Park venture, said OHA needs to see an appraisal of the property before any new offer could be made. He said he suspects Wolffer is testing OHA to see whether the agency is really serious about acquiring the park

Trustee John Waihe'e IV, who has been leading the effort to purchase the property, says he's serious about buying the park, but not for $11 million: "I wouldn't go for that," Waihe'e said.

Waihe'e said he is meeting with Mayor Jeremy Harris later this month to discuss the city's plans regarding Waimea Falls Park. He is concerned that the park's cultural and botanical resources be protected and not sacrificed in an effort to turn the sacred ground into an amusement park.

Since Wolffer put the property on the market, Harris and the Honolulu City Council have set aside $5.2 million to buy the park — the same figure that the OHA authorized for the purchase.

The city has also begun proceedings to condemn the property. Typically if a condemnation is authorized by the City Council, city attorneys will file a lawsuit in Circuit Court. A jury or judge then determines the price of the land based on fair market value.