LIHUE — Developers seeking to resurrect the iconic Coco Palms Resort in Wailua said the now shuttered hotel may open in the spring of 2017 — if they are able to obtain the county permits needed to begin construction next year.
“If we could do it sooner, we’d love to do it sooner, but so far, everything seems to be kind of lying in that direction,” Coco Palms Hui, LLC Principal Tyler Greene said on Thursday during the Honolulu-based investment group’s first quarterly update before the Kauai County Council.
Should Coco Palms Hui officials receive the proper permits within the next six to nine months to begin construction, Greene estimates that it should take about two years to conduct planned restoration efforts.
The hotel, which served as the backdrop for Elvis Presley’s film “Blue Hawaii,” has been closed since Hurricane Iniki struck the island on Sept. 11, 1992.
They have two years to secure their building permits before the last Iniki Ordinance, those instituted to speed up the rebuilding process for hurricane-damaged buildings, ends.
The Kauai County Council approved the ordinance extension in December.
Michael Belles, the Lihue-based attorney representing Coco Palms Hui, said the developers are finalizing site plans and working with the county’s Planning Department to determine what permits must be filed.
A hotel operator, Greene said, has been selected but will not be disclosed until the necessary legal agreements are finalized.
In November, Coco Palms Hui investors disclosed to the County Council that either Starwood Hotels and Resorts or Hyatt Hotels and Resorts officials were being considered as the hotel operator for the Coco Palms Resort.
A leading factor in the selection process, Greene said, was finding an operator who is willing to infuse the cultural and historical recommendations compiled by the Coco Palms Cultural Advisory Committee into the hotel’s daily operations.
“We want to make sure that any operator that comes in doesn’t just take those on and practice those things for the first year or the first three years — we want to make sure it is carried on in perpetuity,” Greene said.
Some County Councilmembers, meanwhile, said they were concerned by Coco Palms Hui’s plan to shuttle residents and visitors to the beach and the Seashell Restaurant instead of constructing a pedestrian overpass over Kuhio Highway — a plan pitched by previous Coco Palms developers.
“I’m somewhat horrified that the environmental impact statement process, which was meant to protect the environment, is making it more difficult to look at what I think would be an environmentally better solution than shuttles, more cars, or people trying to cross that four-lane highway,” Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said. “It’s a major problem, and if you don’t address it before you open, it’s going to haunt you, I believe, in just the operation of your hotel.”
• Darin Moriki, county government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.