Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Memorial park options include sale, liquidation

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

A status report on bankrupt Honolulu Memorial Park lists several options for the future of the troubled cemetery, from relying on a "friends" group to raise money to save the deteriorating landmark pagoda to selling the property outright to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and turning the park over to a trustee.

Attorney Jerrold Guben represents members of the Richards family who own the cemetery and filed the report with Judge Robert Faris in federal Bankruptcy Court late Tuesday.

Guben said Monday the cemetery owners will continue to work with niche and plot owners at the Nu'uanu facility for only 30 more days to come up with a way to finance repairs at the pagoda, pay for maintenance at the cemetery and restore the perpetual care fund. If a plan is not developed in that time, he will ask the court to liquidate the assets and have the park closed.

"We would have to lock the doors," Guben said. "There would be no insurance to cover liability, no operators and no maintenance."

According to the status report, the owners will not submit another reorganization plan because the company is insolvent and could not possibly satisfy Chapter 11 requirements, but they have been approached by an unnamed Hawai'i cemetery operator to purchase the facility. That proposal would require demolishing the pagoda and building a new columbarium to accommodate new niche sales.

The previous plan to reorganize the business and tear down the three-story pagoda was withdrawn last month when a vote of pagoda niche holders who have a stake in the cemetery's bankruptcy filing gathered enough votes to reject the memorial park's plan.

Plot owner Wayne Kotomori, who had been leading a public drive to save the pagoda, is not involved in conversations with the Richards brothers and is no longer leading a group of niche and plot holders to save the structure.

The newly formed nonprofit Friends of Honolulu Memorial Park, which has about 450 members, is working with the owners and trying to raise money to save the pagoda.

If the sale of the cemetery falls through and friends cannot raise the needed money, the owners will convert to Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The pagoda, built in 1966 as a replica of the Sanju Pagoda in Nara, Japan, has a leaking roof, and small pieces of decomposing concrete beams are falling to the ground. Niche holders say the pagoda was an important selling point when they bought into the cemetery, and it should be repaired.

Guben said the owners no longer can afford to maintain the cemetery, much less repair the pagoda at an estimated $1 million to $2 million cost.

Christian Porter, the attorney representing the friends group, said the next step is to decide what can be done realistically and approach the Richards brothers with a plan.

"Everybody needs a game plan and from there we can go forward," Porter said.