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  From The Garden Island, January 09, 2005

In Our View for Sunday - January 09, 2005

EDITORIAL - The Garden Island

The Coco Palms and Elvis

LIHU'E -- When longtime Kaua'i entertainer Larry Rivera thinks back about some of the best times in his life, images of Coco Palms Resort come crystal clear.

More than 50 years ago, Rivera worked as front-desk clerk, cocktail waiter and waiter at the Coco Palms Lodge, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Alfred D. Hills, the forerunner of the Coco Palms Resort.

This week marks what would have been Elvis Presley's 70th birthday. This week is also when a decisive hearing is being held on plans for renovation of the Coco Palms Resort at Wailua.

The resort has been shuttered since Hurricane eIniki hit in September, 1992. Despite the heavy, unrepaired damage, the Coco Palms lives on as the Kauaei icon for Elvis, with Larry Rivera and family still staging Blue Hawaii weddings in the famous lagoon there, and Elvis fans from across the globe making the pilgrimage to Kaua'i to see the main setting for the King's most popular film of the same name.

The developers proposing to bring the Coco Palms back to life may be bringing to the table the last chance to rebuild the property close to what it was in its prime.

The buildings will be bigger and modernized, but the plans look like the look and feel and of the place will still be there.

The developers have also won the favor of former Coco Palms employees by staging a reunion party for them, and letting them in on their plans.

Word of mouth around Kaua'i says the employees are in favor of the plans and that a contingent will be showing up in force at the hearing before the Planning Commission scheduled for this week.

Options remain if the plan is defeated, but those options might mean the resort is bulldozed to make way for something else, possibly a park or a resort of a different look and feel from the original Coco Palms.

The developers have shown they are flexible in their decision to trim the main new buildings down a story, and hopefully their changes will be what opponents of the new resort plan hoped to see.

While we won't see the Coco Palms ever run again in the exactly the same manner as it was under the late Grace Guslander, nor are we likely to see Elvis reappear at Wailua, though some aren't counting that out, it would keep a piece of old Kauaei alive if the resort was brought back in 21st century style.

We hope the planning commissioners use their utmost wisdom in deciding the fate of this historic, and venerable, property when they decide the fate of the proposed resort redevelopment project.

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