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  From The Garden Island, July 14, 2005

Coco Palms renovation plans are rapidly moving forward

By Andy Gross - The Garden Island

Elvis would approve.

The Coco Palms Resort, dormant for 13 years, is going to be developed into a mixed-use facility that will feature 200 condominium units and 104 hotel rooms, according to Donna Apisa, president and principal broker of Oceanfront Realty International, the sales broker in charge of the project.

Donna Apisa of Oceanfront Realty (left) and long-time Coco Palms entertainer Larry Rivera stand in front of a sign of new life at the shuttered resort.
. . . . .

Nestled on 45 acres in Wailua, a location once reserved for Hawaiian royalty, the Coco Palms Resort achieved early exposure and fame in the 1961 Elvis Presley movie, "Blue Hawaii."

Apisa said construction would cost in excess of $200 million. There will be no timeshare units.

The developer is Coco Palms Ventures, LLC, which is a joint venture between the principals of The Weiser Companies, Inc. and Petrie Ventures, those being Richard Weiser and Walt Petrie, respectively.

Construction is expected to start early next year, according to Apisa.

She said the anticipated opening date is mid-2008. The architectural firm for the project is Architects-Hawaii, Ltd., and the interior designer will be Philpotts & Associates, Inc.

The construction coordinator is Mike Swanson, principal and managing director of DLR Group, according to information provided by the developers.

Larry Rivera, an advocate for the revitalization of the resort, said he is extremely happy that members of the Kaua'i Planning Commission approved permits required for the Coco Palms renovation project to move forward.

The 396-room hotel has been closed since Sept. 11, 1992, when Hurricane 'Iniki struck Kaua'i.

Legal documents have been filed with leaders in the state Real Estate Commission, Apisa said. Additional information will be available after the preliminary Condominium Public Report is issued. Apisa said it could happen as soon as next month.

In spite of the current damaged condition of Coco Palms, Rivera is still coordinating weddings, and will continue doing so at Coco Palms through his Blue Hawaii Weddings, reminiscent of Elvis and the movie, "Blue Hawaii," filmed at Coco Palms in 1961.

Elvis' bungalow, fondly known as Cottage 56, will be restored and used as a memorial to Elvis. In addition, a movie museum is being planned, according to Apisa.

The developer also wants to dedicate a museum as a tribute to Grace Guslander, bringing back artifacts from Guslander's era as general manager of the property. Many of those artifacts are presently in safekeeping with leaders of the Kaua'i Historical Society.

Also planned are three restaurants, including the Sea Shell Restaurant across Kuhio Highway from the main property, a conference space, spa, general store, signature shop, and a beauty salon.

A pedestrian overpass will connect the Coco Palms Resort with the Sea Shell Restaurant and Wailua Beach.

The ancestral home of Kaua'i's ali'i (royalty) since the 13th century, the area encompassing the Coco Palms Resort was the home of Kaua'i's last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule, in the mid-1800's, according to Website information.

Originally opened on January 25, 1953, the Coco Palms Resort had 24 rooms, two guests and four employees. Under the guidance of Guslander, the resort grew to contain 416 rooms by the mid-1970s.

However, by 1984, the number of rooms had been reduced, and in August of 1985, Wailua Associates acquired the resort from the Guslander/Amfac group.

Within the resort is a famous, 2,000-tree coconut grove, which is the largest of only three similar groves in the entire state of Hawai'i.

Andy Gross, business editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or agross@pulitzer.net.

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