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  From KGMB9 News, August 4, 2005

Hotel to Rebuild after 13 Years

Jim Mendoza - jmendoza@kgmb9.com

It's taken 13 years for the winds of change to blow over the Coco Palms Hotel.

Back in 1992, Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai and destroyed the famed resort. The island recovered, but Coco Palms Hotel did not. Now, it's on the verge of being born again.

. . . . .

In September 1992, Iniki's swift winds slammed into Kauai and crushed nearly everything on the Garden Isle. It dealt a death blow to the Coco Palms Hotel.

"The damage was horrendous," said entertainer Larry Rivera, who started at the hotel in 1951. "You couldn't see it actually until you went to each room and saw all the water falling into the building."

Thirteen years since, the wounds still fester. Once the most elegant resort in the state, the Coco Palms Hotel is now just rotting wood with rooms too mildew-infested to see the light of day.

Rivera took KGMB9 on a tour of the destruction, the first television crew allowed inside since Iniki hit. There's a lot to see, but little that's pretty.

"If you look right through, you can see the sky, it's all open," Rivera said, pointing to gaping holes in a roof barely holding together.

But now, rebirth is on the doorstep. Developer Richard Weiser has taken ownership and plans to restore the Coco Palms to a hotel and condominium. The facelift will cost $200 million.

Weiser plans to keep some of the old touches, such as the wedding chapel, the lagoon made famous by Elvis in the movie "Blue Hawaii" and the cottage where he honeymooned, all to walk down memory lane.

Construction will start later this year and the new Coco Palms should be ready to open in 2007. Rivera can't wait.

"I've never given up," he said. "I feel that it's still here and it's still beautiful and it's still going to come back."

Thirteen years is a long time for a new day to dawn, but Rivera says it's better late than never.

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