‘A little speed bump’

LIHUE — As fire investigators continue to sift through what remains of the Coco Palms Resort in Wailua, the Honolulu-based developers who are seeking to reopen the shuttered hotel say they intend pick up the pieces and move forward with their vision for the iconic Kauai landmark.  

”People have reached out to us over the weekend, and really, what we want to do is focus on the positives,” Coco Palms Hui, LLC Principal Tyler Greene said by phone on Monday. “We’re continuing to keep our heads up and march along. This is maybe a little speed bump, but we’re still very focused on getting Coco Palms opened and moving forward.” 

A midday fire roared through part of the hotel on Independence Day, destroying the main lobby and badly burning the breezeway of a connecting building. 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to county fire officials. 

An estimated cost of the damages sustained in the fire is expected to be released within the next several days, county spokeswoman Mary Daubert wrote in an email. 

Initial plans to file building permits for the hotel by the last quarter of this year are still on track, for now, Greene said. 

What isn’t so certain, however, is how the fire will impact previously planned restoration efforts for the hotel, which called for preserving a significant portion of the hotel’s lobby and incorporating it into the final building design.

The signature, large conch shell that hung near the dining room, for example, was completely destroyed in the fire.    

Coco Palms Hui officials confirmed that excavator crews, during the weekend, demolished the main lobby and building behind it where the second floor of that building collapsed on the first floor. 

“I don’t think plans will change, but at this point, it’s really hard to assess all of the damage and where we’re at based upon what happened over the weekend,” Greene said. “We’ll still bring back some of the same design elements that we were planning prior to the fire, and based upon the Hurricane Iniki ordinance, there’s really nothing that’s changing there, since it’ll use the same (building) footprint.” 

Greene recently told Kauai County Council members that it will cost about $125 million to rebuild the Coco Palms Resort, which includes purchasing the land from the hotel’s owner, Prudential Insurance, and installing a $5 million to $12 million photovoltaic system to power the resort. 

Though last week’s fire was the latest setback in recent efforts to resuscitate the aging hotel, which has been closed since Hurricane Iniki struck the island on Sept. 11, 1992, Greene said the incident shouldn’t impede efforts to purchase the hotel or affect current hotel operator agreements with Hyatt Hotel Corporation.

Hotel site manager Bob Jasper said his regular tours at Coco Palms were restarted on Monday.  

The most encouraging thing that rose from the ashes, Greene said, was the amount of support that he and other developers received from island residents and visitors.

“We just feel grateful that we’ve got so many people rallying for us and rallying for the project in general,” Greene said. “It’s all about getting Coco Palms up and going, so really, it’s been interesting to see the support that flooded in from the community.”

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