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Hemmeter estate demolished


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POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

The former Hemmeter estate has been demolished, with nothing left but a large pile of rubble and a tractor parked out front.

Only a signature water fountain featuring hula maidens and angels that sat in a circular driveway was left intact.

Japanese billionaire Gensiro Kawamoto, who purchased the fixer-upper once known as the “;Kahala Villa”; four years ago, previously had said he planned to transform the estate into a garden museum.

Indeed, a number of pagoda sculptures — or Japanese stupas — still remain on the property, awaiting their placement in a garden.

Earlier yesterday, large trucks were parked in front of the 27-year-old estate on Kainapau Place, while demolition crews flattened out the home.

Kawamoto could not be reached through his interpreter for comment yesterday.

Kahala neighbors, who have been critics of the billionaire for leaving his homes in disrepair over the years, said trees had been cut down and left where they fell, while vagrants had been living in the house. No dust screen was erected before demolition began in the morning, said the neighbors.

The Kahala Community Association also has been monitoring Kawamoto's 20-plus properties, and says it intends to do more to enforce its deed covenants, which require properties to be maintained and landscaped.

Anita Bruhl, a member of the association, says it has grown increasingly frustrated with Kawamoto.

“;His properties are a blight on the community,”; she said. “;A solution has to be found. Kahala is one of the most prestigious addresses in the country, and you have tourists driving by and seeing these horrible-looking properties.”;

Many of his homes have been neglected, with overgrown yards, stagnant pools and the jagged remains of rock walls that were partially torn down.

Kahala neighbors say they have seen Kawamoto back in town but have never had much success communicating with him.

Kawamoto bought the Hemmeter estate in 2005 from Don Eovino of Eovino & Associates. The Japanese tycoon walked into an open house and offered the asking price in cash, plus another $6 million for the two parcels next door.

Eovino had then listed the four-bedroom, eight-bath estate for $12.9 million “;as is”; or was offering to demolish and renovate it into a contemporary beachfront estate, for a price tag of $20 million.

Eovino said the main house — originally built as a single-story home with a second level added later on — was outdated, with the low ceilings and small doorways.

“;You couldn't have remodeled that house,”; said Eovino. “;There was nothing charming or unique anymore. There was no architectural value — it wasn't an Ossipoff.”;

Eovino said in a previous interview that he regretted selling the property to Kawamoto.

“;What (Kawamoto's) proven over the years, in the past and recently, is that what he says he is going to do is not what he actually does,”; he said.

The property stretches from a rock wall at Kahala Avenue to the shore, and included a tennis court, outdoor pavilion, media room and caretaker's quarters, along with a main house.

It had been sitting idle since before last Christmas, with only partial bulldozing and landscaping completed.

Kawamoto created controversy and garnered national media attention three years ago when he decided to offer his Kahala homes, rent-free, to three native Hawaiian families.

City officials did not return calls by press time to confirm whether a demolition permit for the estate was issued. City records show Kawamoto took out two demolition permits for the Hemmeter estate in June 2007.