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New owners emerge in Coco Palms Resort development, Kauaʻi residents remain critical

abandoned Coco Palms Resort  kauai
Chrisjustus
/
Wikimedia Commons
FILE - The Coco Palms Resort, as seen above in 2008, initially opened in 1953 next to a historic coconut grove and an ancient Hawaiian fishpond. It has been closed since Hurricane Iniki — a Category 4 storm — slammed into Kauaʻi in 1992.

In-flux ownership and lack of capital have hindered building permits over at the Coco Palms Resort on Kauaʻi, which has been in ruins since 1992.

But new ownership at the Wailua property is trying to get ahead.

According to Parker Enloe, a representative for the real-estate developer and subsidiary Reef Capital Partners, there has been headway.

“We've been working with a new buyer that has been involved for about a year and a half now,” Enloe told the Kauaʻi Planning Commission on Tuesday. “They've had the property under contract, and they've actually put up a substantial amount of money to further the permits along.”

Before this, the latest attempt at redevelopment hit a low point last year, culminating in a one-bid foreclosure auction. The property was sold to Stillwater Equity Partners for $22 million. The foreclosure was finalized this spring, according to Enloe.

Enloe reported a new, undisclosed group of Utah-based buyers called RP21 Coco Palms LLC as the latest to try and finish the project.

Previous developers Coco Palms Hui LLC spent the last five years making little progress on meeting building requirements before finally filing for bankruptcy.

According to a June 30 status report to the County of Kauaʻi Planning Department, there were seven outstanding permits. Enloe said that it’s now just down to one, and it’s weeks away from being finished.

And unlike the past group that got the permits, Enloe said the new group has the capital to finish the project — and has new ideas.

“Our current plans are to demolish. In the new building permits that we're almost finished up with, all of the buildings will be taken down to their foundations,” Enloe said. “No digging will happen.”

Plans for the redeveloped 350-room resort along the already eroding Wailua coastline remain contentious.

More than 200 pages of testimony were received in opposition ahead of Tuesday's planning commission meeting. This week, a hui submitted a petition alleging that the permits have lapsed due to a lack of substantial progress, and asking the commission to make a declaratory judgment on it.

Sitting Kauaʻi County Councilmember Mason Chock said there’s a lot to consider.

“Its location is a challenge and issue,” Chock said during public testimony. “We know the environmental impacts of sea level rise, and so forth, and traffic issues that we're facing are all issues that we should be considering.”

Chock said the petition can reset the tone of the conversation.

“If at the very least, this order provides an avenue for us to come back to the table and have a discussion with our owners about what we would like to see and how we'd like to see it done in order to protect the cultural sites on this property,” Chock said.

In the 19th century, the grounds were home to Kauaʻi’s last queen, Queen Deborah Kapule Kekaihaʻakūlou. Starting in the 1950s, the now-derelict resort also famously hosted stars including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Bing Crosby.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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