Time for action on Coco Palms

  • Contributed photo

    Gary Hooser

  • Contributed photo

    Allan Parachini

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A building at Coco Palms sits after being gutted and cleared of asbestos. A structural engineer inspected for structural integrity at the Wailua property.

All of Kauai is aware of the derelict and skeletal remains of the former Coco Palms Resort property in Wailua. For all of us, the view is a constant reminder of the neglect and disrespect these very special lands have endured for the past 27 years.

In the mid-1800s, the area encompassing the Coco Palms Resort was the home of Kauai’s last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule and an areas where high chiefs and chiefesses conducted business and entertained visitors.

Its present condition is more than just a visual blight along an otherwise beautiful drive along the coastline. It is a travesty that disrespects both the present and the past.

As nostalgic as some may feel about the former Coco Palms Resort, Iniki most certainly killed it. Literally for decades now this corpse of a resort has sat there, an eyesore of neglect that dishonors the host culture upon which the buildings are both literally and figuratively constructed.

Our community can no longer tolerate the disrespect and tangible harm to both our economy and our culture that its continued neglect brings upon us. Although the property’s owners and developers, Tyler Greene and Chad Waters, keep saying their project to reconstruct and reopen Coco Palms is on track, it clearly is not, and may never be.

Toward the end of his recent term, former Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. publicly expressed a lack of confidence in the Coco Palms developers who originally came to the county in 2013, promising to restore the dream of what was the former Coco Palms Resort.

Recently, we asked Mayor Derek Kawakami for his perspective. He said:

“Like many residents, my feelings about Coco Palms are torn. On one hand, it represents a significant chapter in the story of Kauai. My grandmother used to work there. Many childhood memories are centered around this special place that I consider Wahi Pana. It is a legendary landmark. However, I believe that every relationship is incumbent on trust and the ability to meet each other halfway.

“I believe the county has been more than generous, and we are still waiting for Coco Palms to reciprocate. The project managers should consider how they are going to make things right. And should this project fail to proceed, the people should have a say. If development is not a near-term reality, we as a community need to start exploring other options.”

Like the incumbent and former mayor, we also no longer have confidence that Coco Palms Hui has the financial means, the overall capacity or even the intent to see the redevelopment to completion.

While the two of us have had profound differences of view about issues of critical importance to Kauai over the last several years, we agree that the present situation is intolerable and a new path for this very special property must be found. Kauai County should seriously consider stripping Coco Palms Hui of its permit entitlements. To this end, we have agreed to set our differences aside and argue together for a positive path forward for Coco Palms.

In an effort to hear their side of the story, we contacted the would-be developers. In an email, Greene said he and Waters “are in discussions with a first-rate contractor” and reemphasized that identities of investors in the project are confidential.

Greene added that: “People have said they want to buy the property, but we have not seen any real offers.” He said he and Waters are “working diligently to do what is necessary to move the project forward.”

Coco Palms occupies a parcel that will in the very near future border a four-lane highway. The property is in both a flood zone and a tsunami zone. Its historical and cultural significance translate to a guarantee of the presence of ancient burial grounds. Addition of hundreds of new hotel rooms constructed there will materially worsen congestion, increase noise and contribute to the ongoing cultural disruption in Wailua.

Greene and Waters and whatever financial partners they may have clearly invested a significant amount of money in Coco Palms. They cannot simply be compelled to give it up without fair compensation. While purchase of the property by the county or state via eminent domain is an option, the current owners would doubtless resist and litigation over condemnation could drag on for years. However, other community-based options do exist.

Yes, this would be a huge challenge, but perhaps leadership for the effort might come from both within our own community and from one or more of the Hawaiian trusts, whose present day net values exceed $11 billion. These trusts have a vested interest in preserving the historical and cultural assets represented by this special property. They could help provide the necessary Native Hawaiian leadership. In addition, Kauai County and/or the State of Hawaii could also partner in the effort, perhaps selling bonds to help cover acquisition costs.

To be successful, such an effort would require that both the vision and the implementation be a genuine community-based, Hawaiian-driven planning process.

Imagine the possibilities. In an era in which the island desperately needs additional housing, the surviving concrete frame buildings at Coco Palms could be repurposed as kupuna housing, the property could also be transformed into a cultural park honoring both its ancient and modern history, it could host canoe hale, hula halau, music and educational facilities.

To that end, an organization like the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT) could assist in the process of finding a donor or donors and help manage moving forward the complex process such a transaction will require. Saving Coco Palms is clearly within their mission.

To launch this discussion and move our community down this path, Mayor Kawakami, along with the County Council, could establish a Coco Palms study commission. Its mission would be to facilitate a genuine community-based process, sufficient in scope so funding partners and all involved would have a clear idea of both the concept and the financial reality of the proposed project. In the past, Senate President Ron Kouchi actually secured state funding dedicated to such a planning project, but that effort stalled.

Imagine the possibilities. The time has come we believe, for our community to join together, begin the conversation that is needed, and move boldly down the path of transforming this very special place we call the Coco Palms into a renewed, culturally and spiritually significant place that we can all be once again, proud of.

•••

Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

Allan Parachini is a journalist and a former public relations executive. He is a Kilauea resident and furniture maker.

25 Comments
  1. billyjoebob January 27, 2019 3:28 am Reply

    This property could be milked by the Coco Palms study commission until the four lane highway is done. Study, after study, after study.


  2. NaNaNa January 27, 2019 4:40 am Reply

    So on one hand, the location isn’t suitable for development because of traffic, flooding, and tsunami concerns. On the other, it sure would be great housing for poor people. Which is it? Do poor people not deserve safe, insurable housing? Does our whiteness assume that poor people don’t drive?

    Please start caring for those less fortunate than you, rather than making plans and telling them what is best for them.


    1. dderek January 30, 2019 10:14 pm Reply

      beggars can’t be choosers


  3. Debbie Jackson January 27, 2019 7:08 am Reply

    Wailuanuiahoano. Please call it what it is.


  4. Ruthann January 27, 2019 7:54 am Reply

    Tyler Greene is still has a lien in IRS Conveyance. Chad Waters cannot sell Real Estate due to losing his license in California. There are questions about title and ownership on the property. I do not understand why this building was not torn down a long time ago. It is past time to return this property to the true owners.


  5. Imua44 January 27, 2019 7:58 am Reply

    Now we have a new comer and a self seeking politician speaking about something which is none of their beeswax. Gary has never understood the value of money. Alan is slowly learning island ways. Of course, these developers are questionable. But to have these two, one a has-been and the other a wannabee, give advice is insulting.
    Gary had his chances as a Concilman and Senator. He was an embarrassing failure at both. Coco Palms needs attention and it is easy for the County to yank any permits, these developers have not performed. But please, the last thing we need is comments by these 2 self serving, starving for attention crybabies.


  6. Charlie Chimknee January 27, 2019 8:01 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Before any other wonderful and/or costly ideas, input, or studies; how about for starters just a beautiful tropical colored paint job.

    That way even if it takes 10 more years to restore it or before the Jungle of Wailua overtakes Wahi Pana and makes it look like another Angkor Wat waiting to be “un-wrapped” in a 100 years from now; at least its visual appearance will not continue to look like the Bombing of Dresden after World War 2.

    Remember, Coco Palms suffered too the ill effects, like other businesses and homes on Kauai, of a failed adequate insurance settlement after Hurricane Inike wherein , as reported by TGI, Coco Palms was offered only $7 Million to repair the hurricane damage, while the contractor for Coco Palms estimated repairs to be $27 Million dollars.

    The current owners estimate repairs are $175 Million dollars.

    Maybe Home Depot and all the Ace Hardwares on island could participate in an in-store and online GO FUND ME paint purchase of 5 gallon buckets of paint with predetermined colors and amounts of paint.

    And perhaps people like Carol Yotsuda could organize the colors and modern or ancient trim color design.

    And let’s not forget the power washing first, with volunteer machines from residents so it won’t take a year to clean.

    Of course the Mayor and Council could authorize the donated use of the water and trucks to haul debris away to the dumps or landfill.

    This could be called a community project.

    When and if the owners of Coco Pa,s


  7. Kauaidoug January 27, 2019 8:12 am Reply

    Fix the darn road first then deal with the rest of it . Then when something is built the beautiful double lane highway will simply be plugged into by the developers. A movie school in addition to other uses as Mr Hooser described would be great. A cinema center could show, Help film and be a valuable resource that would encourage more movies filmed here. But fix the darn road for now!


  8. Ruthann January 27, 2019 8:16 am Reply

    Isn’t Coco Palms in the “set back” area, due to flooding?
    Tyler, Chad, and Ron know that Coco Palms has been unable able to pass the Flood Permit.
    It seems that tearing the rest of Coco Palms down, is the only smart choice.
    I don’t see why any Tax money should be used to “Bail Out” Tyler’s bad investment.


  9. Debra Kekaualua January 27, 2019 10:13 am Reply

    WHEN the fake surroundings, metes and bounds of Hawaii are recognized and not a second earlier will we acknowledge the plan in the effort to “claim” not just coco palms aina, but the entire archipelego, Only then will we invite working together with those that have heretofore been eager to continue the LIE instead of fessing up to the reality that has taken center stage. “Own” is not the terminology we use, neither are titles, title guarantee corporations, tax map keys etc. Clearly, the problem is with those in the hierarchy of all the corporates and nonprofit corporates that do not belong here and were never invited in the capacity that the u.s. military government continues to pillage and dismiss everything kanaka maoli, not N(native hawaiian), which is the terminology that america planted on us. The fraud is so huge, ongoing for so long, that nothing can be done and wont be done due to our unwillingness to work with those criminals and the LIE U.S.A told at the U.N. table. “By what means did u.s. acquire hawaii?” The U.S. community needs to do their own due diligence research, because only we seem to know and understand what is truth and integrity. We cannot and will not play “working together” with those obviously UNtrustworthy Liars.


  10. anon ymouse January 27, 2019 10:30 am Reply

    I like the idea of making it more of a cultural park, which frankly would probably be a tourist attraction, too. Perhaps something comparable to the Maui Arts and Cultural Center?


  11. Doug January 27, 2019 11:43 am Reply

    “Coco Palms occupies a parcel that will in the very near future border a four-lane highway.”
    Near future? This highway, like the Coco Palms redevelopment, has been promised for years. And, like the Coco Palms redevelopment, this highway will never happen……..maybe we should focus on the highway first, then address the Coco Palms………


  12. Chris Holmes January 27, 2019 12:04 pm Reply

    Wonderful article. My wife and I have been talking about Coco Palms for years and have thought that instead of restoring the resort that it should be used for our kapuna, giving them a very nice and central location with a rich history to enjoy the twilight of their lives. Using Coco Palms in that manner would preserve the history and the beauty of the land, give us a perfect meeting place for ohana to get together, and truly help our elders. This is a growing need as our population ages and will assure companionship and a wonderful atmosphere to those who mean so much to us.


  13. Marcia Leialoha January 27, 2019 1:18 pm Reply

    Aloha ! Fantastic article with great ideas on the future for CoCo Palms. Please keep us informed of public meetings .


  14. mrs chris farley hopper January 27, 2019 1:42 pm Reply

    I agree but where were all of you when the so called hawaiiaans moved in ?Cost lots of dollars for lawyers & court costs-that would have been the time for our HISTORICAL GROUPS to dance for THIS “HUI” I waS A MAJOR STOCKHOLDER IN amfac & LOST MY MONEY TOO. lETS HAVE A MEETING OF The 3 LEADING ENETIES ON kauai &oahu< hELP THE hui GO ON THE hotel & hISTORICAL GROUPS ON THE MEETING ROOMS & MOST OF THE GROUNDS.???i am 95 now


  15. Craig Millett January 27, 2019 1:46 pm Reply

    Thank you Gary for bringing this subject into the light once again. There is however one preeminent fact that is not being addressed in most discussions about development on Kauai. That fact is the certainty that sea levels are rising and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Given the location of Coco Palms its real estate value will soon be nil and the highway that fronts it will need to be moved to higher ground. Please let us apply better foresight when considering plans of this magnitude.


  16. Charlie Chimknee January 27, 2019 10:33 pm Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Before any other wonderful and/or costly ideas, input, or studies; how about for starters just a beautiful tropical colored paint job for the Coco Palms.

    That way even if it takes 10 or 20 more years to restore it, or before the Jungle of Wailua overtakes Wahi Pana and makes it look like another Angkor Wat waiting to be “un-wrapped” in a 100 years from now; at least its visual appearance will not continue to look like the Bombing of Dresden after World War 2.

    Remember, Coco Palms suffered too the ill effects, like other businesses and homes on Kauai, of a failed adequate insurance settlement after Hurricane Iniki wherein, as reported by TGI, back in the day, Coco Palms was offered only $7 Million to repair the hurricane damage, while the contractor for Coco Palms estimated repairs to be $27 Million dollars.

    The current owners estimate repairs are $175 Million dollars.

    Maybe Home Depot and all the Ace Hardwares on island could participate in an in-store and online but local style GO FUND ME, call it the Coco Palms Donation Pot, paint purchase of 5 gallon buckets, or 55 gallon drums of paint with predetermined colors and amounts of paint for each color. $1 to a $million dollars gladly accepted. The Managers of both Home Depot and the Ace Hardwares are all friendly and reasonable so we are sure to be welcomed by them.

    And perhaps people like artist Carol Yotsuda and friends could organize the Coco Palms colors of “modern or ancient” building and trim color design. And perhaps Mr. Hepa and Mr. Espiritu could provide input as to outcome with respect to the Hawaiian Culture.

    Mrs. Grace Guslander would be proud and as well respected for this community effort.

    And let’s not forget the power washing first, with volunteer machines from residents so it won’t take a year to clean. Scaffolding? Again, let’s find a company(s) to loan the project some equipment.

    And ain’t it about time the “volleyball players” at the K triple C Leisure Ranch do a little pay back to the community by donating their laborious efforts, perhaps Uncle Neal could make that happen.

    Of course the Mayor and Council could authorize the donated use of the water to power wash, and trucks to haul debris away to the dumps or landfill.

    And then we can “Take Down That Wall”, of construction shade cloth fronting Coco Palms.

    This would be called a community project.

    When and if the owners of Coco Palms ever secure the $$$ to rebuild or sell, they should agree to reimburse the County for its expenses, while the rest of us donors will enjoy some restored beauty while waiting.

    Perhaps to start, only the portion of Coco Palms visible from the highway could be beautified…and even plant some Coco Palms.

    Mr. Hooser, for his ideas and enthusiasm could be asked to accept the effort of coordinating the project. Gary I’ll be happy to put in the first $100.

    Mahalo in advance,

    Charles


  17. Toni Auld Yardley January 28, 2019 3:42 am Reply

    NO HOTEL – KEEP THE COCONUT GROVE
    AND RESTORE THE FISH POND
    AND BUILD AN OPEN-AIR AMPHITHEATER
    TO HONOR AND CELEBRATE
    POLI‘AHU HEIAU WAILUA COMPLEX

    Wailua and Waimea were the two royal centers on Kaua‘i prior to Western contact. These royal centers were the political, religious, and social centers for Kaua‘i’s paramount chiefs (ali‘i nui) who resided at these sites for much of the year. Certain areas, such as the heiau, were set aside exclusively for the ali‘i and priests. The maka‘äinana (commoners) supported this royal compound by farming the agricultural fields along the river, harvesting the inland fishpond, and fishing the ocean waters of Wailua Bay.

    https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/files/2014/09/Poliahu-Brochure-2-sided.pdf


  18. Palani January 28, 2019 7:34 am Reply

    It doesn’t help that they’ve hired incompentants to help design the new hotel.


  19. Kauaidoug January 28, 2019 8:23 am Reply

    Fix the road THEN the Coco Palms project. Seems the development should follow the infrastructure! Plan ahead for the eventual rebuilding of something, sometime. I would like to suggest a film school of some kind. A place Kauai film students can come to learn learn all aspects of film. A film center would encourage movie making here and provide studios and facilities for editing finishing, shooting interior shots. But fix the darn road first!


  20. Kauaidoug January 28, 2019 8:26 am Reply

    I’m saying the new Coco Palms could be a multi purpose location that would serve the public.


  21. Kawika January 28, 2019 11:18 am Reply

    Debra: Standing up for your beliefs and morals is something we should all strive to do and I applaud you for that. On the other hand though you need to stop using terms such as “Us, We, My People, etc..” You are not Hawaiian. You cannot change your race, it is impossible. There is nothing that you could ever do that would make you Hawaiian. You could be born here, or live here for 700 years, you would still not be Hawaiian. Marring a Hawaiian man also does not make you Hawaiian. It is perfectly fine to believe in and pursue change and recognition for the Hawaiian People, but you should stop pretending you are one of them. It is insulting.


    1. dderek January 30, 2019 10:24 pm Reply

      why u hatin?


  22. Toni Auld Yardley January 28, 2019 2:08 pm Reply

    Hanohano Wailuanuiaho`äno:
    Remembering, Recovering, and Writing Place
    Ku`ualoha Ho`omanawanui

    While the cultural and spiritual importance of Wailuanuiaho`äno in traditional times was obscured by rapid Western colonization in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this region of Kaua`i is a major place in Hawaiian history, culture, and mo`olelo (stories). Wailua’s prominence as a significant wahi pana (storied place) extends from the ancient to the historical past, and into the present for Känaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) today. Remembering, recovering, and writing place provides an indigenous framework for cultural studies that complements other academic disciplines where memory is not always considered a relevant resource.

    http://www.ksbe.edu/_assets/spi/hulili/hulili_vol_8/8_Hulili_2012_Vol8_hoomanawanui.pdf


  23. Mike March 10, 2019 2:29 am Reply

    Lets get a group of Heavy hitters and get this done! 10 investors @ 50 million a piece we can get this done the right way! Your out there! 🙂 Step up and be a Hotel owner! 🙂


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