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Cars moving to CompUSA site

Erika Engle
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AutoMart USA, a used-car dealership, will make its home at the old CompUSA site on Ala Moana Boulevard. Kamehameha Schools will lease the property to Dan Keppel. The site has had various uses over the years; gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie will use it tonight to host supporters and the news media.

The former CompUSA site at 604 Ala Moana Blvd., which Safeway Stores Inc. had considered as a possible new location, will instead become a used-car dealership at least for the next 2 1/2 years.

The dealership will be named AutoMart USA and owned by Dan Keppel, who also owns Acura of Honolulu.

Keppel plans to model the dealership after high-volume, used-car retailers on the mainland such as CarMax and AutoNation. The new business is not a franchise of any mainland company, Keppel said.

"The high visibility of the location, along with the large number of parking spaces on the property, makes it a good fit for our auto business," he said in a news release.

The dealership is to open late this year. Keppel has a 33-month lease for the 144,500-square-foot parcel.

Keppel’s Acura dealership is at 777 Ala Moana Blvd., at the entrance to Kakaako Waterfront Park, and is steps away from the AutoMart site.

Kamehameha Schools, owner of the CompUSA property, said the lease to Keppel is an interim step while Kamehameha Schools moves forward with its plan to redevelop 29 acres it owns in Kakaako. Kamehameha Schools’ Kaiaulu o Kakaako master plan, which was approved by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, calls for adding about 2,750 housing units on nine blocks between Restaurant Row and Ward Centers, mauka of Ala Moana Boulevard. Kamehameha Schools is proposing up to seven high-rise buildings and a significant amount of low-rise structures with some commercial space.

The CompUSA stores at Kakaako and Pearl Highlands Center were among 103 sold by Dallas-based CompUSA to an affiliate of Gordon Brothers Group LLC, an advisory and restructuring company based in Boston. The Kakaako store closed in April 2008 with about 10 years left on its lease.

Since the closure the vacant store has been used by the production company filming "The Descendants," a movie starring George Clooney based on a novel by Hawaii-based writer Kaui Hemmings; for parade float preparation; by nearby Alu Like Inc. for a literacy fair; and by gubernatorial hopeful Neil Abercrombie, who used the site as a home base for festivities on primary election night. Abercrombie will use it again tonight to host supporters and the news media as election returns become available.

Safeway considered setting up shop on the long-vacant site but later announced its purchase of the former Schuman Carriage location at 1234 S. Beretania St., a few doors away from its current Beretania Street store. Safeway has begun work on the site, which will be home to a new $65 million, 61,000-square-foot store expected to open next November. The old Safeway site will be redeveloped for Walgreens, Petco and other retailers.


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