Honolulu building owners locked in tense renovation dispute

HONOLULU — The owners of adjacent Honolulu buildings are embroiled in a dispute over renovation work that has involved alleged property damage, personal safety hazards and a requested court injunction.

A vacant, 12-story tower nicknamed the “pimple building” is being converted to 71 rental apartments for low-income households, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The conversion estimated at about $25 million began in October and includes cutting window openings in the tower, which is dotted by hundreds of brick stubs that give the building its nickname.

The work has drawn complaints from Joseph Pickard, the owner of a 3-story building sitting within inches of the tower.

The tower development partnership, Queen Emma Partners LP, filed a motion in state circuit court last week seeking an injunction to prevent Pickard from interfering with renovation work.

A firm led by Kailua-based Ahe Group is renovating the tower, formally known as the Queen Emma Building, in partnership with Florida-based Southport Financial Services and financing largely from the state of Hawaii.

Pickard bought the shorter building in 2011 and spent $3.5 million creating corporate office space for his engineering and construction firms, Environet Inc. and Community Planning & Engineering Inc., and a tour company, SeaHawaii Inc.

Pickard said he does not believe a wooden canopy and netting to protect the smaller building from falling debris are sufficient safety measures.

“We have a 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) piece of equipment sitting over the heads of our employees in the atrium,” Pickard said. “It’s a danger. They introduced a deadly problem into our workplace.”

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