Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Sunday, April 15, 2001

Old Marks Estate’s future
is still stuck in limbo

Question: What happened to HIMAG? I passed the old Lester Marks Estate and was surprised it was closed. Are there any plans for it? It's a waste not to use it.

Answer: Flash: the estate will be offered for sale at the upset price of $1 million. But more on that later.

HIMAG -- the Hawaii Institute for Management and Analysis of Government is no more.

The former Lester and Elizabeth Marks Estate, where HIMAG was headquartered, is still owned by the state Department of Transportation, but remains vacant, although there have been a number of proposals for its use over the years.

There were no bidders when it was put up for sale at the upset price of $3.25 million a few years ago, according to DOT spokeswoman Marilyn Kali. And there has been little interest although the estate has been advertised on the DOT's Web page.

The problem is the historic designation of the property has created problems for potential buyers, Kali said. That's why the price will be dropped to $1 million.

Currently, new bid documents are being reviewed by the attorney general's office and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, she said. DLNR will handle the auction for the property and has asked that an environmental assessment be prepared. It's hoped that the sale notice will go out by this summer, Kali said.

Some history: The state purchased seven of the estate's 17 acres from Elizabeth Marks, the registered owner of the property, in 1956 for $624,750. It was purchased as part of the project to build the Pali Highway.

In the mid-1970s, HIMAG, the state's so-called "think tank," moved in to the main structure at 3860 Old Pali Road.

By the mid-1990s, however, HIMAG had worn out its welcome in the residential neighborhood and the upkeep became too much. HIMAG was absorbed by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, but eventually, just quietly folded.

In 1996, a Star-Bulletin reporter toured the property, noting the main structure brought to mind an elegant era: "You can visualize a gleaming Daimler pulling up and discharging Jay Gatsby."

The floors and ceilings were repaired in the early 1990s, he said, "and other than the occasional broken window and swirling leaves, the main structure only looks forlorn and forgotten."

Someone from the Hawaii Historic Foundation said the home's history and style of architecture exemplified an upper-class Hawaii mansion of the Twenties and Thirties. In 1999, House Speaker Calvin Say suggested developing the estate as a wellness center under a public-private partnership.


To the van driver and Dina, the manager, both of Hakuyosha in Manoa. With my arms full and in a rush, I put a wrapped gift meant for someone at work on the roof of my car and drove off. I lost the gift when it dropped from my car's roof. The van driver, whose name I don't know, saw it in the middle of the road, stopped to pick it up, and turned it in to Dina at Hakuyosha. After seeing a sign I posted on a telephone pole, Dina contacted me to let me know she had it. I was happy to get the gift back, but am more pleased to know that there are still honest, Good Samaritans left in the world - especially my part of the world. - J. Matsui

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