Kusaka remains woman on a mission

Former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka is on a mission.

She is working hard to make sure Coco Palms Resort retains its Hawaiianess.

Through her company, Kusaka Consulting, she is a liaison for the resort’s owners, has created a Council of Aloha for the property, and wants to ensure that the cultural importance of the property is not lost during its reconstruction.

“My hope is that this property will be the apex of Hawaiian hospitality in the state. She was a grand lady in her day,” thanks to the work of the late Grace Guslander, long-time general manager of the hotel.

She is convincing the owners of the importance of keeping things like the torch-lighting ceremony, the coconut trees and grove, lagoons, and emphasizing the history of the area as home of the ali‘i (ruling chiefs of the island).

“We want to keep that alive. We need to keep that alive for our children,” said Kusaka in a telephone interview.

She is also working with leaders of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, including former state Rep. Peter Apo and former Kilauea resident Doug Chang, now general manager of Hotel Hana Maui, to offer “aloha training” to hospitality-industry workers.

“Native Hawaiians have a way with hospitality and aloha,” and such training is important, she said.

“It gives us a sense of place, and helps us to understand who came before us, and keep those issues alive.”

She envisions those visiting the property after it is rebuilt getting to the property and feeling as if they’re “stepping back in time,” to a day honoring Hawaiian elegance.

Kusaka said she is fortunate for the opportunity she has been given, and feels fellow Kauaians should feel fortunate that part-time Princeville resident Richard Weiser is one of the resort’s owners, because “he gets it.”

She sees part of her job as guiding how things are done, so the new resort will meet community members’ expectations, she said.

“It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m full of aloha, and I want Coco Palms to be full of aloha.

“I have no doubt it will be a success, but it won’t be without challenges,” she said.

“I’m happy to be involved.”

A sales office will be established at the Coconut Market-place in May, and the next permit owners of the property need is a demolition permit, she explained.

She has gotten a real-estate license, but not for the purposes of selling units at Coco Palms, she said.

Kusaka said she learned a lot about real estate in acquiring her license, and if she makes referrals for sales, she will get commissions on those, though that is not her intent at the present.

“I’m not out there looking for a commission, or looking to sell condos,” said Kusaka. The new Coco Palms Resort will be sold as individual condominium units to individual owners, and she knows the economic realities of modern-day resort developments.

“In order to build it, we have to sell some condos,” she said. “That’s not really my job,” to sell condos, she added.

“I have not sold anything, and do not intend to.”

What she intends to do is sell the feeling of the Coco Palms, the history, the sense of place, not only to prospective buyers, but to the current owners, and everyone else.

Her establishment of Kusaka Consulting, she said, was a way to keep herself active and involved.

“I wanted to do something independently, to keep myself occupied and busy, and make a difference,” she said.

During her eight years as mayor, and before that as the late former Mayor Tony Kunimura’s administrative assistant, she said she learned a lot about government processes, including planning, public works, infrastructure, and other matters.

“My whole thought surrounds keeping busy, using my talents and skills positively,” being involved in and helping members of the community, she continued.

“I’m very, very fortunate.”

Among her first clients were the owners and operators of the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach, initially serving as a governmental liaison advising them in the permitting process.

Along the way, she convinced them to research the history of the property that used to be the home of the Broadbent family, she explained.

“We want to honor those names,” to make sure they don’t disappear, said Kusaka, adding that she convinced the owners to honor those who planted the coconut trees in the grove with a “history wall” at the hotel.

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