6 years later, Coco Palms permits still alive

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    The shell of the former Coco Palms Resort sits empty on Kuhio Highway in Wailua.

LIHU‘E — Controversy surrounding the permits for the reimagining of the Coco Palms Resort granted in 2015 has persisted throughout the years. Yesterday was no different.

While concerns for traffic, climate change and shoreline setbacks were brought up in regards to the Coco Palms property during Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, there was little commissioners could do as representatives gave their annual status update on the demolition and progress of the ill-fated resort.

Since what was on the agenda Tuesday was just an update, the body was backed into a corner, and ultimately unanimously accepted the yearly progress report for the site that is currently still in foreclosure proceedings.

Planning Commissioners were inundated with 80 pieces of written testimony, many calling to revoke permits for the Coco Palms property. For the commission to make decisions regarding the actual permits or conditions granted six years ago, the body would need to opt for a future agenda date.

While Honolulu-based Coco Palms Hui, LLC, still technically owns the title to the lot, Leif Erickson of Private Capital Group explained that ownership is currently in flux.

PCG represents lenders Stillwater Equity Partners, which made the original loan to Coco Palms Hui in 2016. Erickson, who is working on the project during the transition of ownership during the foreclosure process, said that once the foreclosure process is wrapped, PCG will transfer the ownership to a new entity.

In July, the property sold for about $22 million in a single-bid public auction.

The auction was prompted by the June 2019 foreclosure proceeding of Coco Palms Hui, which formed and initiated the latest attempts to revitalize the property. In March 2019, Stillwater Equity Partners took over the property after the hui defaulted on more than $11 million in financing on a $22-million mortgage.

The owners of Coco Palms Hui, Erikson said, have had no participation with the property for several years, and are not currently involved. In the years since PCG took over, ongoing maintenance of property clearing and demolition has continued, as well as work toward completion of permit applications. Affordable-housing conditions have been made clear to potential buyers, Erikson said.

Ron Agor, an architect on the project, said that within the next 30 days, the group anticipates having final approval on the remaining seven permits left to complete for the 350-unit hotel.

According to the Coco Palms permit conditions matrix, submitted to the county, as of June 30, eight of the 29 conditions placed on redevelopment of the property have been completed, including a $50,000 historic-preservation contribution and review of waste-management plans.

During the meeting, commission Vice Chair Helen Cox raised concerns for climate change and shoreline setbacks, while Commissioner Gerald Ako expressed worry about traffic conditions.

Rick Cooper, who spoke during public testimony, requested that commissioners “step up for the people of Kaua‘i” in rejecting the redevelopment plans and instead opt for what many community members are requesting: a community center.

Commission Chair Donna Apisa, during the meeting, said she’d be interested in hearing community proposals, but they must be “practical solutions” before she could fully support them.

The resort, which opened in 1953, never recovered after its destruction by Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992. Several attempts to restore the iconic property since then failed. Back in 2015, it was Coco Palms Hui projected the property would reopen by spring 2017.

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Sabrina Bodon, editor, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

16 Comments
  1. RGLadder37 September 29, 2021 12:29 am Reply

    Why they want to raise up Coco Palms hotel again? I don’t know. Back in the 1970s this hotel was made famous by songs like Don Ho Tiny bubbles. Scenes of Hawai’i. And their Luau shows. Some thing happened. And that was all there is to it. 1981, Hurricane Ewa hit Kaua’i really hard. And the rest went down hill. I think Hurricane Iniki was stronger than Ewa. But many people survived both events. If you were the millionaire considering building this hotel, ask yourself, what is the profits? There doesn’t appear to be any profits. So I don’t know.


    1. manawai September 29, 2021 2:37 pm Reply

      It’s jobs, RGL.


      1. RGLadder37 September 29, 2021 9:22 pm Reply

        I’m a millionaire. Why should I care about local jobs? Wasted time and money.


    2. MMH September 30, 2021 9:35 pm Reply

      Iniki was a category 5 hurricane. The strongest. So yes it was much stronger than Ewa


  2. Steven McMacken September 29, 2021 3:47 am Reply

    And on and on it goes and where it stops nobody knows.


  3. Uncleaina September 29, 2021 6:28 am Reply

    Tear it down? But I thought it was listed in the National Register Of Historical Places as the Kauai Planning Committee Monument of Corruption and Incompetence.


    1. MMH September 30, 2021 9:33 pm Reply

      It’s condemned and unsafe. So it can be torn down.


  4. Joe Public September 29, 2021 8:25 am Reply

    Just convert the property into an assisted living facility for the Kapuna. This should make it better for the infrastructure (less traffic then having another Hotel in the area) and give our elderly a nice property for outdoor activities.


  5. natura... September 29, 2021 8:52 am Reply

    I vote ‘nature’, as in give it back to Nature, with due respect for the ancestors.


  6. MisterM September 29, 2021 1:08 pm Reply

    Every remaining structure is unsafe and should be demolished. There’s no way that structure could ever meet modern codes. It’s sat rotting and rusting for 30 years and was built long before modern building and hurricane codes.


    1. KauaiFarmMan September 30, 2021 7:17 am Reply

      It’s made of steel and concrete. It’s actually one of the most well built structures on the island. It’s survived 2 hurricanes. It’s structural integrity isn’t the issue , it’s location is the problem. It will obviously cause more traffic in the worst intersection on the island. Everyone seems to have ideas for this place , until someone has an idea and about $100 million, you are all just blowing smoke and complaining. It would obviously not benefit our island but someone owns that land and has a right to develop it. It’s called law.


  7. drsurf September 29, 2021 5:53 pm Reply

    In 6 years 8 of 29 conditions met! The simplest one they can’t even do – maintain the coco grove. I saw a coco fall onto Kuamo`o and go under a moving car. They had to pull over and inspect their cars underneath. It has been 30 years of mismanagement, false promises, meetings and deterioration of the buildings and grounds. Enough already.


  8. kimo September 29, 2021 7:53 pm Reply

    Time for County to stand up and be accountable. Pull the plug on this travesty. If any individual had not progressed on permits issued six years ago those permits would have been canceled.


  9. nobody September 30, 2021 6:42 am Reply

    Positives to having a hotel at this location.
    Tourists able to walk to beach, not get in your way driving to the beach.
    Walk to restaurants and shopping.
    Bike path to all east side activities.
    Cultural sites within walking.
    Short access to airport.
    In many ways this is a near perfect, eco friendly, location.


  10. MMH September 30, 2021 9:45 pm Reply

    I miss seeing the hotel. It’s a great location. I wouldnt mind a smaller boutique hotel there. I’d really love to see it turned into a sprawling park with play areas and such. Tying into the bike/walk path. With a good sized parking lot so the residents can park and go to Wailua Beach and river to enjoy the day. This was the first beach I ever went to when we moved there in 1986. I have great memories playing in the waves with my dad, mom and siblings. Our dog hunting for guppies in the river and chasing them (catching nothing). Playing with kids visiting and local families. The beach is so vacant now; especially with no parking lot near.


  11. Katie Dunn October 29, 2021 1:47 pm Reply

    Why not a Hawaiian Cultural Center?
    They could reuse the lava rock.
    It would be a wonderful asset for Kauai 🌴


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