Updated: There was a “win-win” deal to keep Service Printers Hawaii in place. HART’s redrawn utility plans have scuttled it.

The future of a prominent, decades-old Kalihi commercial printing business remains uncertain as Honolulu rail leaders say they must now take the business’ entire building under their latest utility-relocation plan for Dillingham Boulevard.

Walter Takara, whose family owns the Service Printers Hawaii property at 1829 Dillingham Boulevard, pleaded during a public meeting Thursday for Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board members to reconsider taking the whole property. 

Previously, the rail agency, Honolulu City Council and Federal Transit Administration had all agreed to a less-expensive deal that required just a partial take of the property, Takara told the board members. It would have allowed the building’s sole, 43-year tenant to stay in business at the corner of Dillingham and Mokauea Street.

Service Printers Hawaii’s future remains uncertain amid the utility design changes for Dillingham Blvd. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

The negotiations to reach that deal lasted seven years and spanned across the tenure of multiple HART executives, Takara added. On Thursday, he described the deal for a partial take as a “win-win-win” that would have benefited HART, Service Printers Hawaii and the Kalihi community at large.

“The i’s were dotted, the t’s crossed to cement that plan going forward,” Takara told members of HART’s Government and Legal Affairs Committee.

But HART officials said they now have to take the Takara family’s full property based on the major design changes done in recent years to finally get the agency’s Dillingham utility relocation effort approved by city leaders and utility companies.

Nan Inc. has already started the utility work along Dillingham based on those new designs. Changing the designs again to accommodate the previous deal HART reached with the Takaras would result in “severe costs implications” for the entire rail project, since the Dillingham work is so critical to construction staying on schedule, HART Project Director Nathaniel Meddings told board members.

How to solve the utility puzzle along narrow, crowded Dillingham has long been one of rail’s biggest challenges – and rail officials’ inability to solve it in a timely fashion drove many of the project’s painful cost and schedule setbacks in recent years.

On Thursday, the GALM Committee voted unanimously to launch a city proceeding that could eventually see the Takara property taken via eminent domain, if needed. 

HART has used the same tactic for numerous other properties required to build the local rail line while still separately negotiating with owners. 

Agency leaders have said that dual-track approach is necessary to keep the project on schedule, even though that schedule has slipped numerous times. Multiple property owners, meanwhile, have complained that pursuing eminent domain while negotiating a price gives HART and the city undue leverage in their negotiations.

HART has used eminent domain to acquire five properties along the transit route, according to Pang Communications, which handles media inquiries for the rail agency.

An ‘Adverse Situation’

According to its website, Service Printers Hawaii has been in business for nearly 60 years. A representative said via phone Thursday that the company did not have a comment on the rail property acquisition matter.

Takara told the board that the company employs more than 30 people.

“Their future is currently unknown, at best,” he said.

The property where Service Printers is located, meanwhile, has been in his family for three generations, he said.

The deal his family had reached with prior HART leaders – before the latest Dillingham design changes – would have had the city acquire some land and a front portion of the building that would be demolished, Takara told the board. Then, the city would have sold the Takaras a similar sized empty lot next door to replace the lost office and parking space.

He called it “a more than fair plan, to replace and build what was taken.”

Takara said he had not been shown any of the new design changes or received any explanation of why they now require his family’s full property. Meddings told him at the meeting that he would be happy to review the changes and why they now required the full take.

“This has been kind of the ongoing thing that we’ve been facing for all these years. Hence the reason why it’s to the point we’re kind of frustrated and rightfully so … but our position has always been to work with HART and try to get this result,” Takara said.

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