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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Historic S. Hata Building in Hilo for sale

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — The S. Hata Building, a major piece in downtown Hilo's restoration effort, has been put up for sale with an asking price of $3.6 million.

The S. Hata Building in Hilo was built in 1912 and has survived tsunami and old-age neglect. David Levenson renovated the landmark in the 1990s and has put it up for sale for $3.6 million.

Advertiser library photo • Jan. 24, 2003

Owner David Levenson rescued the dilapidated building from condemnation in 1990, buying it from descendants of the Hata family. The Hatas built the structure in 1912, with generations of the family operating a dry-goods business there.

Today the 18,650-square foot building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is anchored by one of Hilo's better-known restaurants, Cafe Pesto.

The three-story building facing Hilo Bay also houses relatively high-end shops that cater to tourists and other shoppers as well as professional and other offices. It is almost 95 percent rented, said building manager Stew Hussey.

The Hata building was originally four stories, but the basement was filled in after Hilo's famous 1960 tsunami.

Levenson said the structure was so run down when he bought it that it was shedding 30- to 40-pound chunks of concrete from the upper floors onto the street below. In the year following the $1.7 million renovation project, Levenson recalled he suddenly noticed other run-down buildings in Hilo being painted and fixed up.

"It has brought quality tenants back downtown, and proven for 10 years running that if you have a good business in a successful building, you can make it in downtown Hilo," Levenson said.

The Hata Building renovations along with projects such as the Kress Building restoration by former U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong and his family several years later helped improve the appearance and image of the downtown Hilo area.

Although there are still empty storefront spaces on Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo, a new influx of tourists from cruise ships that dock in Hilo have boosted business downtown.

"There are many, many indications of capital coming into this area, and there are a number of buildings downtown that are in escrow," said Hussey, who is also general manager of the Lawrence Appraisal Group. "I have been approached more in the last year with prospective people with capital asking what is available than at any other time since I've been here."

Levenson, who now lives in California, said he has sold a number of his Big Island properties recently, and is "trading up" into higher priced projects on the Mainland.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 935-3916.