POSTED: 28 DECEMBER 2004 - 8:00am HST

Setting the Record Straight on Coco Palms Resort

Cottages along a lagoon at the old Coco Palms Resort

by Juan Wilson on 28 December 2004

The "Viewpoint" editorial titled "Setting the record straight on the Coco Palms Revdevelopment" in the December 24th Garden Island News was written by George Sanders. He is a representative of Richard Weiser and Walt Petrie, the developers of the Coco Plams Resort Project. In the editorial he addressed my ealier Viewpoint editorial titled "The Parking Garage as Limbo in 21st Century" questioning the wisdom of some aspects of the project.

Mr Sanders corrected by statement that the project would have any "Timeshares" units and stated unequivically that the 306 non-hotel units would be fee-simple condominiums. I stand corrected and am relieved to hear this gaurantee from the developers.

I am not opposed to the redevelopment of the site. There are still concerns however. The acknowledgement by Mr Sanders that there will be additional traffic problems in the area does not solve those problems. Saying that your working with the DOT on those problems does not solve them either. The Coco Palms Resort will pour more gasoline on the traffic fire that rages everyday between Lihue and Kapaa.

I still have problems with the resort building a four story parking garage to solve parking problems. Just imagine the line-up to get into and out-of the structure. Perhaps the County and developer could find a solution to the site development with less traffic density in the first place.


Planning Commission Meeting December 14th at 9:00am


POSTED: 13 DECEMBER 2004 - 8:00am HST

In 1992 Iniki destroyed the once prominent Coco Palms Resort near the mouth of the Wailua River

Click on the image above to see more images of the old hotel-resort.

The Parking Garage as Limbo in 21st Century
by Juan Wilson on 13 December 2004

I have no problem with an effort to renovate and develop the old Coco Palms Hotel-Resort. I remember seeing it in the early 1970's and it was doing great business. The Seashell restaurant was open, there were boats on the lagoon. It was a great destination for tourists.

The current plans are geared towards a different economy than existed on Kauai when Elvis sang Blue Hawaii at the Coco Palms. Today's reality is that developers really don't want to build hotels with infrastructure, services, and employees. What they want to do is put up a structure that can be sold off as quickly as possible for the highest price.

For a popular upscale tourist destination like Kauai, that means a mix of time-shares and condominiums that can be sold in individually to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, for Kauai, this means the creation of a non-community in our midst. The time-share phenomenon is particularly a problem here.

The time-share visitor is usually someone who is enamored with the beauty of a place and can't really afford to live there. So they do what they think is the next best thing - they share a room with dozens of other people for the privilege of spending a week a year in the same room. Needless to say, there is a booming business in units dumped by unhappy time-share "owners".

Unlike a resort or hotel, the developer of these "semi-owned" facilities usually provides little but the building and sales agents. The developers often rely on public beach facilities, nearby shopping plazas and other community facilities to support their client's needs. Unlike hotels and resorts, they often provide little new infrastructure development and simply increase traffic and other neigborhood problems.

So, my opinion is that the Coco Palms site should be developed as a Destination Resort Hotel with "affordable" middle income housing for local residents (ideally some of whom should work at the Coco Palms).

Destination resorts are meant to be deep enough in amenities and activities that a guest has little reason to spend half the day in a car looking for a good time. This kind of operation focuses the action on the site and tends to keep traffic down.

The current plan envisions 106 hotel rooms and 199 multi-family condominium units (vacation time-shares). The hotel rooms, instead of being near the ocean, are in steerage at the back of the site.

Perhaps the most grisly aspect of this plan is the perceived need for 715 parking stalls. This seems way out of line to me, even with conference rooms and retail shopping on site. To accomplish this parking requirement the developers are proposing a four story parking garage. This is a bad idea.
If you have ever visited Los Angeles, or seen a movie set there, you know that parking garages are a kind of "nowhere" land of ugly things where ugly things happen.

Parking garages are really places of machines and concrete where people are not welcome. They are not part the public street, and not part of the interior private building they serve. They are neither an indoor nor outdoor space. They are a kind of limbo: Places where people are rundown by black SUV's and assasinated. They are Inhuman places, and something we should avoid on a place like Kauai.

Let's reduce the parking requirements for the site and keep it on the ground and landscaped.


The Lyndon B. Johnson Parking garage at Texas State University at San Marco TX

Coco Palms Development

by Lester Chang published in The Garden Island News
13 December 2004

Coco Palms LLC. leaders are asking the Kaua‘i Planning Commission to consider a renovation plan for the Coco Palms Hotel that calls for less density and offers a feeling of more spaciousness.

Coco Palms LLC leaders are proposing three-story buildings as opposed to four-story buildings and a bigger gap between buildings to allow for a better view of the Coconut Grove, said to be the largest or among the largest coconut groves in Hawai‘i.

The developer also is proposing to build a few more hotel rooms and one less condominium at the 33-acre hotel site fronting the Wailua Bay.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet at the Lihu‘e Civic Center at 9:00am on December 14, and most likely will review the changes proposed by Coco Palms LLC. before voting to allow or not allow the renovation of the Coco Palms.

The hotel was the flagship hotel of Kaua‘i in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was operated by the Guslanders, and was touted as a premier Polynesian hotel.
The hotel was severely damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and has been closed since them.

The hotel also was the site for the partial filming of Elvis Presley’s 1961 "Blue Hawai‘i."

Through a plan to revamp the old hotel, the developers are proposing to bring back the glory days of the Coco Palms Hotel.

The owners originally envisioned a project comprising 103 hotel suites and 200 multi-family residential condominium units, retail shops, a spa, a museum, restaurants, office space, meeting rooms and 715 parking stalls.

In documents sent to the county Planning Commission, Rodney Funakoshi, the project manager for Wilson Okamoto & Associates, a Honolulu consultant that is working on the proposed hotel renovation project, noted these changes:

• The height of hotel buildings has been reduced from four to three stories

• The gap between hotel buildings has been expanded to create a 155-foot to 206-foot opening to offer a better view of a historic coconut grove

• The ends of building have been "stepped back" to reduce the height and mass of buildings and to improve views from the lagoons on the property to the coconut grove

• A single condominium has been eliminated to provide for more retail space

Three new additional hotel rooms also are planned for construction. The project calls for 106 hotel rooms and 199 condominiums. Diagrams sent to the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission show 195 condominium units to be housed in four buildings located immediately mauka of Kuhio Highway.

The data also showed the bulk of the 106 hotel rooms will be located mauka of two lagoons.

In addition, the cottage Presley used in "Blue Hawai‘i" will be renovated. A chapel that has been used by longtime entertainer Larry Rivera for "Blue Hawaii" weddings will be renovated as well, according to a map sent to county planners.

In addition, a four-story parking structure will be built immediately south of Apana Road, which connects with Haleilio Road. The latter road is the main thoroughfare to homes in Wailua Houselots.

Plans also call for the renovation of the old Seashell Restaurant, located makai of the hotel site.

The developer noted in the data that the changes are being proposed in response to concerns residents and government agencies have raised at previous public hearings.

Some Hawaiians had recommended that the developer allow Hawaiians or the kanaka maoli, the indigenous people of Hawai‘i, and the public continued access to government-managed lands located within the hotel property.

About half of the property, including the coconut grove, is managed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and is leased to the hotel owners.

Kaua‘i architect Avery Youn, had contemplated asking the Planning Commission to grant him intervenor status in the case.

Youn, a former Kaua‘i County planning director, said he has standing in his case because he is part-Hawaiian and lives in Wailua, near the hotel.

It is now known that the developer has signed a written document guaranteeing public access to the state lands at the hotel site.
Coco Palms, LLC. leaders are seeking a special management area use permit, a project development use permit, a variance permit and a Class IV Zoning permit for the 33-acre project.