Status of Coco Palms reviewed

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A motorist on Kuhio Highway drives past the shell of rooms that was once the Coco Palms Resort.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    An entrance to one of the buildings that was the former Coco Palms Resort sits behind the overgrowth.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    A peak from the Nounou mountains peep over the roof of a building that was once the Coco Palms Resort.

LIHU‘E — While the Planning Commission received over 115 pieces of written and oral testimony overwhelmingly calling for the reconsideration of plans to redevelop the area of the Coco Palms Resort, there wasn’t much they could do.

Yesterday, the commission heard a status report update on the Class IV Zoning Permit, Project Development Use Permit, Variance and Special Management Area Use Permits which were initially granted to Honolulu-based Coco Palms Hui, LLC for the property in 2015.

In March 2019, Stillwater Equity Partners took over the property after Coco Palms Hui defaulted on more than $11 million in financing on a $22 million mortgage. In June of this year, foreclosure proceedings came into play, with two proposals that will eventually lead to the auction of the property.

During this intermediary period, to maintain and recoup some of the property’s value, actions toward development continue.

Thus far, Coco Palms Hui has over 20 plans submitted for final approval and is working on the final eight with the county on submittal, as reported Tuesday by Jon Pang, a lawyer representing Coco Palms Hui. A draft of the deed had been submitted to the Planning Department and referred to the county attorney for review.

Foreclosure proceedings do not affect permits, as those are associated with the land through June 30, 2021, so continuing to work to meet target deadlines and expectations must continue.

As it literally stands, the concrete structures that remain on the property are meant to be incorporated into the final improvements, although reports earlier this year suggested the structure could be in danger.

“The demolition that’s supposed to have been done has been done,” Pang said. Recently, talks have been to reduce the third floor, but those plans have not been finalized.

Currently, cattle and horses have been roaming the property to maintain some of the guinea grass, and about 60 coconut trees have been harvested.

“The developer has proceeded with the plans in order to … provide value,” Pang said. “Hopefully the value of those plans will benefit the next owner, if there is one.”

Since the item was listed on the agenda as a status report, the commission could only receive the item, not take any specific action to halt the development of the area.

It’s an emotional discourse. Written testimony from concerned citizens ranged from calling for the space to be celebrated as a historical and cultural site to as an educational institution, but most agreed that heydey of Coco Palms Resort has passed.

Councilmember Felicia Cowden, in her individual capacity as a member of the Kaua‘i County Council, wrote into the commission her recommendation that the resort entitlement be extinguished and sent back to the Board of Land and Natural Resources to be “set aside for a future community wilderness or cultural park. Those prime, historically significant lands should not be attached to the problematic private pieces to help move a distressed asset.”

Former mayor JoAnn Yukimura wrote to the commission that the permits “should have never been issued,” stating that the project had design flaws and the island is already inundated with hotels.

“Removing the cloud of resort development from the properties will enable the community to come together around a new vision for that site — a vision that could include a park and culture center that interprets the history of the place … ,” Yukimura wrote.

When Coco Palms Hui LLC came forward all those years ago, it commissioned architect Ron Agor to design an updated 350-room resort and rebuilding cottages on the property, reminiscent to the preferred suites of famed celebrities who walked its halls.

“The county and people of Kaua‘i have been generous in (the last 28 years),” Rick Cooper said during public comment. “It’s sad to see it go, but unfortunately that’s the situation. Elvis has left the building.”

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

15 Comments
  1. Palani August 12, 2020 6:29 am Reply

    “When Coco Palms Hui LLC came forward all those years ago, it commissioned architect Ron Agor”
    Their first, and fatal, mistake.


  2. Alex Wright August 12, 2020 6:33 am Reply

    As a frequent visitor to the island I’ve followed the story of the Coco Palms property with great interest for many years and have even toured the property. I think it’s time to recognize that this project isn’t going to happen…and that isn’t a bad thing.
    My humble suggestion would be to rebuild the historic and beautiful lobby building and one of the hotel buildings to be used for community use but also to honor the architecture of what was a beautiful resort in its prime. Keeping the hotel building will also shelter the property from the noise and traffic from the highway. As for the rest of the property, tear the structures down and preserve it as a beautiful, history-rich, open space. Put a walking path along the lagoon with historical markers referencing the resort, the hurricane and the history of the land. It’s time to let the resort go and to embrace the beauty of the property.


  3. Z August 12, 2020 10:45 am Reply

    I have many a time the county should have never let this b.s. go this far .it should have been torned down atleast 20 years ago. We don’t need another over price hotel for the beautiful people . Use the land correctly kauai needs another hospital,affordable housing,could have a park with a cultural center. I could care less who use to stay there .elvis is dead with the other cronies they left the building. Now it’s time to say good by. Tear the dam thing down an start a new era.


  4. Kauai Boy Mainland August 12, 2020 1:04 pm Reply

    Coco Palms is Coco Palms. Remove any and all man-made stuff except maybe a footprint of one of the buildings (the old dining room with the giant shell) and make ’em like one reflecting pool like NYC 911 memorial. As a reminder.

    The rest, close ’em down, lock ’em up, and let it just be a sacred place to all from now on.

    So many people have so many different connections over so many centuries, and many have ancestral memories and connections to that geographical place. Make it a memorial to all history on Kauai. No need rewrite history, no need do nothing, just leave ’em alone.

    Period.

    Let those who are resting, rest in peace already. Put up one nice stone wall around, especially across the front, and then stay off the land, except maybe some groundskeepers to keep it nice using taxpayer money. Preferably maintained by true local Hawaiians.

    Let Coco Palms RIP already. Like supposed to.


  5. carol groves August 12, 2020 1:48 pm Reply

    It would be great to see a 4-screen theatre, a few restaurants and redevelopment of the beach club across the street to a bar or brew pub, providing much-needed Kapaa nightlife and movie options during rainy vacation days or for film festivals. It’s such an amazing property.. you can call it the “Grace Center” after Grace Buscher Guslander (former coco palms developer/manager).


    1. what August 12, 2020 10:43 pm Reply

      get a grip !


      1. Karen Leigh August 14, 2020 3:36 am Reply

        I have visited and toured Coco Palms every time I go back to beautiful Kauai.I agree that it should have a new lobby, and remodeled lagoon. A park and culture center, along with historical markers as well. No more developers….just make it special and reverent to the Kauians. Coco Palms will always live in my heart. Mahalo.


  6. Laura dub August 13, 2020 5:39 pm Reply

    What a hurricane hazard! Tear it down before it becomes nature’s missiles.


  7. Carolyn Addison August 26, 2020 12:22 pm Reply

    I visited Coco Palms 4 times the last time was after the Hurricane demolished it I I


  8. Carolyn M Johnson September 13, 2020 8:26 am Reply

    I saw the Coco Palms ruins when I visited Kauai a few years ago. I have heard that it could be haunted. In keeping with Hawaiian tradition, perhaps it would be wise in any case to find a Hawaiian religious person who can cleanse and bless the spot! Maybe then it would not be so wrought with turmoil!


  9. Kimo November 29, 2020 4:23 am Reply

    I’m 64 years old, and can recall, with vivid imagery and emotion, my years of vacationing on Kauai with my mom, dad, and brother. We also vacationed on Oahu and the Big Island, but Kauai came to represent Hawaii. It’s a long way from Pennsylvania, but always worth the trip! We stayed at the Wailua Bay View Apartments (not sure if that’s still the name) on Wailua Bay, across from the Coco Palms, and would would eat at the Sea Shell, float upstream in the Wailua River as the tide was coming in, and body surf all day until we could hardly walk. The Na Pali cliffs. Waimea canyon. Poipu beach. Hanalei and the puka shells. Hiking up the Sleeping Giant with my dad. The menehune fish ponds. Fern grotto. Anyone reading this will remember. Beyond all this were our many walks across the road (only 2 lanes back then) to watch the torch lighting ceremony at Coco Palms. “Alooooooo-HA!” (remember that guy?) We’d all be wearning our aloha shirts, and my mom would be in her muumuu. Corny sounding today, but we were in heaven! Rest in peace, Coco Palms. You’ll live forever in lore, and your land will be forever Kauaii! The ali’i nui will rest well.

    For those who are reminiscing along with me right now, go to youtube and listen to “Beautiful Kauaii” by Don Ho (Tiny Bubbles by Elvis won’t hurt either). And also remember, this is the land, as stated in “My Little Grass Shack” (although not exactly Kealakekua), “where the humuhumunukunukuapa’a goes swimming by.” …. Aloha!

    There’s an island across the sea
    Beautiful Kauai, beautiful Kauai
    And it’s calling, yes calling to me
    Beautiful Kauai, beautiful Kauai


  10. Amanda Franklin December 23, 2020 10:41 am Reply

    It’s a shame Elvis Presley enterprise didn’t have interest in this place and restore it with Elvis and local iconic themes where people could come and get married like Elvis did I think even people who aren’t really Elvis fan’s would be interested in that


  11. Sheary spatks February 22, 2021 10:23 am Reply

    Do something!! We keep coming back hoping the property is in someway being used. Very disappointing that your leaders can’t get this done.


  12. Anne Lotz March 7, 2021 7:38 am Reply

    We stayed at Coco Palms about 7 times in the eighties. It was like going home and a lot warmer than Pennsylvania. We visited 5 islands and stayed in some lovely hotels over those trips but the CoCo Palms was Hawaii to us. The first few times we stayed Mrs. Guslander was still alive and she was a gracious hostess each evening. The display each evening and call to the feast was wonderful. The bartender at the middle bar and pool (some sun but some shade as well) was Lance and he always remembered your name as soon as you arrived. He always had tips on great local restaurants. There will never be another CoCo Palms becoming a park would allow it to be the appropriate tribute to the religious history as well as the hotels.


  13. Michael Lanois May 3, 2021 4:44 pm Reply

    I stayed at Coco Palms after I saw “Blue Hawaii” and several times since till shortly before the Hurricane ended my stays. I feel that change is normally a good thing, except in the case of Coco Palms. The best and only course that should be taken is fo Coco Palms to be fully restored to the way it was in the movie. Not as a bastion for the wealthy, whic I am not. Rather as a touch stone to a better time fir the entire world to enjoy and dream in. Coco Palms was never inexpensive but neither was it not affordable. Restored to its grandeur and beauty, the world would welcome its return with open arms. It is a shame that those with the ability to restore it no longer Jane the vision that enable that ability. God bless preserve our memories of Coco Palms. M.F. Lanois


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