|Remembering and Reviving the
Coco Palms Hotel
From The Honolulu Advertiser, Page B-1, Monday, February 7, 2000:
History complicates Coco Palms plan
LIHUE, Kauai — The history beneath the old Coco Palms hotel could change a developer’s plans for rebuilding the resort and reopening it as a time-share-hotel project.
Lincoln Consulting Group is planning to replace the 396-room hotel with 232 apartments to be sold as time-share units, while retaining 20 luxury suites as hotel units.
The developer has been meeting with the state Historic Preservation Office, the Kauai Historic Preservation Review Commission and the Kauai Burial Council to work out how it will deal with a range of archeological sites on the property.
But the property, which is built within an old coconut plantation, also is known for a series of lagoons that its buildings overlook.
Project architect Avery Youn said they once were granted to Queen Deborah Kapule as fish ponds.
To most people today, the lagoons may be best known as the site at which Elvis Presley was married in the movie “Blue Hawaii.”
The Coco Palms was the oldest continuously operating hotel on Kauai until it closed in 1993. Its longtime manager, Grace Guslander, was credited with establishing the Hawaii archetype of a Polynesian resort and developing such features as nightly torch-lighting ceremonies.
Speakers at a Kauai Planning Commission hearing last week expressed concern about the handling of burials on the site, as well as how the new development will affect the lagoons and associated waterways.
Youn said any burials unearthed during construction will be reinterred on the property at an already-established location. However, the issue of the lagoons is less clear.
Lincoln Consulting director Jim Reed said he plans to demolish the existing hotel structures, some of which were damaged by Hurricane Iniki.
To comply with federal flood control rules, that will require raising the habitable floors to 15 feet above sea level, which ranges from one to seven feet higher than existing ground level. To prevent the central lagoons from being too far below the rooms, Reed has proposed raising the lagoons by as much as 10 feet.
It is not yet clear how county and state agencies will rule on how that will affect the historic qualities of the ponds.
Reed has proposed saving the lagoonside cottage in which Presley stayed during the movie’s filming and moving it into the coconut plantation from which the hotel gets its name.
The Kauai Planning Commission is expected to take action before the end of March.
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