KAPAA — Leftover cups, telephones and light fixtures strewn around Coco Palms are reminders of the once-thriving hotel.
On Monday, a bulldozer and a construction crew replaced cars and tourists as they took to the 46-acre property, cleaning up overgrown trees and salvaging the inside of cottages.
The long-awaited demolition of Coco Palms Resort, which was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, is under way.
The $3.5 million demolition project will take six months to complete, said Tyler Greene, a representative from Coco Palms Hui, LLC.
“We are ecstatic to see the demolition in process, and are truly grateful to the community and county of Kauai. Without their support and belief in us, we would not be where we are today on this project,” Greene said. “We hope we can continue to show them our unwavering commitment to restore the spirit of Coco Palms for all to enjoy.”
Eli Brainerd, president of Pacific Concrete, Cutting & Coring, the company in charge of demo, expects cleanup to be completed by Friday. He estimates demolition of the cottages and other structures to begin next week. Once heavy construction starts, Brainerd estimates it will take 20 to 25 people to finish the project.
“We’re trying to save whatever we can,” he said.
Coco Palms Hui, LLC, does not plan to level the entire property. Rather, they hope to keep the integrity of some of the structures through a selective demolition process, Greene said.
Concrete structures will stay while wooden structures will be bulldozed, he said.
“The footprint and square footage of the buildings stay the same,” he said. “The interior walls, mechanical and electrical systems will be taken out but the concrete will remain.”
Instead of leveling structures like the Queen’s Audience Hall and the parking garage, PCCC will tear out the drywall and make mechanical and electrical repairs.
The bungalow buildings will be elevated eight feet to adhere to Federal Emergency Management Agency standards, Greene said.
The company hopes to rebuild Coco Palms and restore it to its former glory. Once renovated, the land that has been home to shuttered buildings and rats for nearly a quarter of a century will boast a 350-room resort, complete with 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.
Coco Palms Hui hopes the new resort will also be a popular spot for films, as it was in the past, like “Blue Hawaii,” starring Elvis Presley.
The final cost of the hotel is $175 million. Greene expects the resort to open in 2017 under the Hyatt brand, and be named Coco Palms Resort by Hyatt. Coco Palms Hui, LLC, chose to partner with the Hyatt because both companies understand the importance of the historical and cultural side of the property, Greene said.
“Hyatt believes in the property and embraces the values and cultural aspects that are an integral part to the Coco Palms of the past and of the future,” he said.
Coco Palms Hui, LLC, has been working on the project since 2012. According to the Building Division, the demo permit was issued on Oct. 31, 2015. It was granted a 180-day extension in April.
Greene will be in front of the Kauai Planning Commission on June 28 to update the commission on the progress of the demolition.