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Coco Palms and Kaua'i

In Our View for Sunday - October 03, 2004
From The Garden Island

The redevelopment of the Coco Palms Resort at Wailua is the focus of a public hearing being held by the Kaua'i Planning Commission on Tuesday, October 12.

The developers need various special permits and variances to return the long-shuttered resort into a 21st century visitor accommodation and attraction. The plan would result in the opening of 103 hotel suites and 200 multi-family residential condominiums, plus a museum, a spa, restaurants, offices, meeting rooms and other structures.

The site of the resort is an historic one, and one that lies in an area used as a sacred site by Native Hawaiians during the reign of Kaumuali'i on back. Debora Kapule, a 19th century ali'i considered Kaua'i's last queen, lived in the general area of the resort, and opened an inn of sorts in the mid-1800s that provided accommodations for the handful of western travelers then making it to Kaua'i.

The aging resort closed down in the days following the devastation of Hurricane 'Iniki in September, 1992 and is perhaps the most visible reminder of the wrecked state of the Island following the huge storm.

The general area of the Coco Palms faces an uncertain future as far as future highway development goes. There is talk of a new Wailua Bridge and roads that might cut through the mauka section of the resort. This has complicated redevelopment plans, along with a years-long controversy over the insurance settlement for the property.

Now that a developer is proposing to move ahead with reconstruction and redevelopment it's time to look at how the Coco Palms area fits into the make-up of today's Kaua'i.

Not only is the resort a place linked to the ali'i of old, it is now also a place of which many visitors, and residents, hold cherished memories. In mid-September a reunion of former staff at the hotel brought out memories of the good times and unique environment brought about by Grace and Lyle Guslander, the former owners of the resort who gave it its South Pacific atmosphere.

Retaining the spirit of the old Coco Palms, while adding tasteful 21st century improvements, would be a winner both in terms of visitor attraction and local favor.

At the October 12 meeting the Island may get a look at the fabled resort's future, hopefully it will be one that wins favor.

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