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  From Honolulu Star Bulletin, January 28, 2006

Coco Palms being rebuilt to former splendor
By Tom Finnegan

The Kauai resort seen in "Blue Hawaii" will be replicated for 2008

STAR-BULLETIN / 1956
The Coco Palms Resort, the last of Kauai's hotels shuttered by Hurricane Iniki, is getting a face lift.
. . . . .

LIHUE Coco Palms Resort, the last of Kauai's hotels still shuttered by Hurricane Iniki and arguably its most famous, is finally getting a face lift, company and Kauai officials announced yesterday.

The resort, site of the famous wedding scene in Elvis Presley's film "Blue Hawaii" and the home of the last reigning queen of Kauai, will be replicated, as the buildings are too damaged to restore, said Richard Weiser, partner of Coco Palms LLC.

But Weiser said it is the company's priority to restore the grandeur and the "aloha" that made Coco Palms the pre-eminent resort on the Garden Isle for decades.

The $220 million project is expected to begin in June or July, with a grand opening scheduled for summer 2008.

"We will continue to pay close attention to that heritage" of Grace Guslander, the general manager of the resort that turned Coco Palms into the icon it was before the devastation of Iniki in 1992, Weiser said.

Plans include using the footprints and much of the architecture of the former buildings, restoring the Polynesian decor and even building a museum to Elvis, the Hawaiian culture and the resort's history.

Coco Palms will be "the remaining Hawaiian cultural hotel" in the state, said former Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who is working with the developers.

Unlike the old hotel, the new complex will be a combination of 196 condominium units and 48 hotel bungalows. It will also have a spa and two restaurants, including the Seashell, which will be nearly on the sand in Wailua Bay. It will be connected to the rest of the resort by a pedestrian overpass over Kuhio Highway.

The main resort has been entitled by the planning commission, said Weiser, and just a few more hurdles with members of the planning staff need to be jumped before construction begins.

The developers held a news conference in Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste's office to announce the purchase of the 16.4-acre property, finalized yesterday. The deal also includes 17 acres of coconut grove and lagoons leased from the state. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Also as part of the project, Coco Palms will donate land to allow the state to widen Kuhio Highway fronting the resort.

Baptiste said the road widening, from the Kapaa temporary bypass to the bridge spanning the Wailua River, is "in the governor's budget this year," with groundbreaking coming in 2007.

tfinnegan@starbulletin.com

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