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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 15, 2007

Developer abandons plan to rebuild Kauai's Coco Palms

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Workers remove a unit sales sign at the Coco Palms Resort. Plans for a fitness spa were denied, helping to doom the rebuilding project.

DENNIS FUJIMOTO | Associated Press

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LIHU'E, Kaua'i A developer has abandoned plans to rebuild the historic Coco Palms Resort on Kaua'i and will instead sell the waterfront property.

Coco Palm Ventures LLC had planned to spend some $220 million constructing 196 condominium units, 48 hotel bungalows, a spa and two restaurants on the 54-acre site where much of Elvis Presley's 1961 movie "Blue Hawaii" was filmed.

Donna Apisa, listing agent for the sale of the condominiums, said the county Planning Commission's rejection of Coco Palms' plans to build a full-scale fitness spa on the 54-acre site was one reason for abandoning the project.

The spa was key to the venture's efforts to attract affluent buyers, she said.

"The current owner isn't going to develop the land and will auction it off (later this year) to another developer," Apisa said.

The Coco Palms was one of Hawai'i's most famous resorts in the 1950s and 1960s. "Blue Hawaii" helped spread the state's reputation as a vacation destination just two years after statehood.

But the hotel closed in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki damaged the property.

Kaua'i's last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule, lived on the land in the mid-1800s.

Coco Palms Ventures, jointly owned by The Weiser Companies and Petrie Ross Ventures, had planned to replicate the original resort's buildings because the hurricane damage was too extensive to renovate them.

The original Coco Palms featured low-lying thatched-roof bungalows scattered among royal ponds and coconut trees. The grounds sit across the road from the white sands of Wailua Bay on Kaua'i's east coast.

Plans called for the resort to reopen next summer. Demolition of the old buildings was due to start last year.

Richard Weiser, a part-time resident of Princeville and one of the key principals for Coco Palms, couldn't be reached for comment. Nor could partners Phillip Ross or Walter Petrie.

Coco Palms bought 16.4 acres at the site and signed a contract to lease from the state the 17 acres of coconut grove land next to it.

The venture didn't disclose how much it paid for the land.

The developer had recently secured permission from the state Department of Transportation to build a pedestrian pathway over Kuhio Highway between the resort and Wailua Bay.