Coco Palms Travesty

SUBHEAD: The  Coco Palms Hui LLC operated by Chad Waters and Tyler Green sounds like a scheme to skim some money off investors.

By Juan Wilson on 10 August 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: Eighty-four year old Larry Rivera sings a duet with a wax statue of Elvis Presley at the re-landscaped Lagoon on the grounds of the gloriously  restored Coco Palms Hotel. Photo image mashup by Juan Wilson.

Look how the Garden Island News Online poll on 8/10/13 conducts a survey of public opinion. The question they pose is:
"What would you prefer to see happen to the Coco Palms?"
The possible answers to that question are:
  1. Restored to former glory
  2. Public Park
  3. Affordable housing
  4. Shopping center
The result was 95% who took the poll as of 8:35am 8/10/13 answered either 1 (67%) or 2 (27%). Suppose the question for 1 and 2 had read:
  1. Another hotel, time share development on the east side.
  2. Public center for Hawaiian cultural and nature preserve.
My guess is the the results would have been dramatically different. It should be noted that the Garden Island News is no longer a Kauai publication. It is now owned by an Oahu corporation. The same place the hopeful developers, Coco Palms Hui LLC come from. Their PR agent seems to be doing overtime on Kauai lining up our Mayor and Planning Director and TGI Editors.

It is highly doubtful that the hotel being built will ever reach the "former glory" of the original Coco Palms that evokes it as the hangout of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. No one today would build open air hotel like the Coco palms with a "natural lagoon" (more likely a filtered chlorine  treated cement swimming pool with water slides).

But even more to the point. The Coco Palms site is no longer a good site for what made the Coco Palms great 40 years ago. The Coco Palms was a destination resort with no neighbors on its stretch of Wailua Beach. It wasn't on a commercial strip with the worst traffic on the island.

Moreover, the first things tourists coming to Kauai do these days is rent a car. They get out their "secret sites of Kauai" guide and head out to see them all in three days. Forty years ago the destination hotels arranged for horseback trips at nearby stables, bus scenic trips for picnics at eastside waterfalls, etc. They provided things to do in the day and entertainment at night.

On top of that, the Coco Palms site is clearly in the crosshairs of natural beach erosion and global warming induced ocean rise. A mere year ago the ocean was threatening to reach the Kuhio Highway immediately in front of the southeast corner Coco Palms site. See Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Beach Erosion 6/13/2012.

Erosion due to waves and wind had cut away what was once over 150 feet of sandy beach and reduced it to less that twenty feet. Spray from breaking waves occasionally reached the highway blacktop.

It needs to be understood that natural water erosion from rain and ocean waves wears away the Hawaiian islands over time. Just look up the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands toward Midway to see our future. The vast majority of coastline retreats a little back from the ocean every year. There is some give and take - but mostly take.

Eventually the there will have to be relocation of our perimeter highway in some places. Over the last couple of years ocean spray was crossing the Kumualii Highway in many parts of Kekaha. In the last year a major mitigation effort was made to save the Kaumualii Highway from being crossed by the ocean. Heavy riprap stone embankments now replace what was a deep sandy beach. The Life Guard tower at McArthur Beach park had to be relocated inland and westward three times in a year.

Image above: Looking toward the restored stage in the Coconut Palace restaurant of the Coco Palms Resort as Eddie Palmieri and his musicians perform. Meanwhile displayed front and center are wax figures of Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine in a re-staging the bar fight scene in the movie "From Here to Eternity" filmed in Hawaii. Mashup by Juan Wilson.

Residents and tourists alike are familiar with how bad the traffic can be in front of the Coco Palms and northward all the way through Kapaa.  Since the "glory" days of the Coco Palms the eastside, and particularly the Kapaa shopping strip has been highly developed by suburban sprawl.

The Kuhio Highway passage over the Wailua River and in front of the Coco Palms is a critical choke-hold on traffic on Kauai. There is no inland passage upstream on the Wailua River--just the highway. If the Kuhio Highway is inundated by the ocean the island is effectively cut in two. There is no easy way to cross the Wailua River inland of the Coco Palms site.

It is best for the Coco Palms site to be a public park, nature preserve and/or Hawaiian cultural center. At some time in the future some part of it will be available to the people of Kauai to cross the island north and south without having to deal with the ruins of another private hotel development deal.

There is already another plan in place for this site - in part a Hawaiian Cultural Center and public park. The Kauai Public Land Trust has been working with the Friends of Coco Palms and others to convert much of the site for Hawaiian cultural use and a public park. 
"Kauai Public Land Trust is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for the Friends of Coco Palms. A committee of community leaders, the Friends of Coco Palms is committed to acquiring the historic Coco Palms Resort property for public benefit."
As recently as last Thursday, August 8th, the day before the resort "restoration" was covered in the Garden Island, Jennifer Luck of the Kauai Public Land Trust was interviewed by Jonathan Jay on the Kauai Community Radio program Out of the Box. She was not aware of the certainty of any rebuilding of the hotel. See article below.

The  Coco Palms Hui LLC is operated by Chad Waters and Tyler Green. It sounds like a scheme to skim some money off investors on a project that will never achieve full financing. This Saturday morning Chad and Tyler are probably out on a golf green on Oahu chuckling on the gullibility of their next victim.

On top of that our Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Planning Director Michael A. Dahilig should be embarrassed by their participation in this travesty.

Coco Palms to be reborn 

By Leo Azambuja on 9 August 2013 in the Garden Island

Image above: Larry Rivera (r) and Chad Waters (l) trade shakas at after the blessing of the Coco Palms sight and the beginning of demolition work that will lead to the glorious restoration of the historic site.

The iconic Coco Palms Resort in Wailua received a new breath of life. An Oahu-based group of investors announced Thursday the property is in escrow, and they have already secured demolition permits.

“This is so exciting,” singer-songwriter Larry Rivera screamed as he walked onto the property, both hands in the air throwing shakas. He started his career at Coco Palms in 1951, and worked there until the hotel shut down following Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

“If everything goes well, we’ll start construction in the first or second quarter of next year,” said Chad Waters, one of the members of the newly-formed Coco Palms Hui LLC.

Waters and Tyler Green represent a group of local investors who want to rebuild the property as a “2014 version of the original Coco Palms.”

“We pulled the (demolition) permits today, we actually pulled 28 separate demo permits,” Waters said Thursday. “It was about $50,000 in demo permits.”

In about four to six weeks, the Hui intends to submit building plans in accordance with the last remaining Iniki Ordinance, which allows for the restoration of non-conforming structures to their pre-Iniki condition, without current, stricter health and safety standards. Once rebuilding starts, Waters said it will take between 12 to 24 months to deliver a hotel close to what it was like before the hurricane.

Waters said the 396-room Coco Palms will be rebuilt with the existing square footage, under the guidance of what is allowed by the Iniki Ordinance. The three main buildings will be stripped down to their concrete structure. All wooden buildings will be rebuilt just the way it was.

“We’re going to highlight the Elvis (Presley) bungalow, Larry Rivera — all of the things which made Coco Palms special we’d like to continue,” he said.

The 83-year-old Rivera could hardly contain his excitement, screaming like a teenager and lifting up his hands several times.

“I talk to (Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.) a lot,” he said. “I said, ‘Bernard — I call him Bernard — 90 percent of the local voters want Coco Palms back, do something, help them.’”

At noon, workers from Craig Kawakami Builders gathered for a blessing of the hotel before they started removing overgrown weeds on the perimeter of property to install dust screens.

Waters said workers will be placing 1,500 linear-feet of dust screens around the property, and security will tightened to stop vandalism and theft.

The property is still in escrow — for an undisclosed amount — until the building permits are obtained, according to Waters.

Coco Palms Ventures LLC held building permits for eight years, but could not find the right investors to rebuild the hotel. Their permits expired in January. But Waters said those permits were for a complete demolition and rebuild under a different plan.

“That doesn’t affect us at all because we are not using that plan,” he said. “We’re rebuilding what is here.”

On July 9, with support from Carvalho and Planning Director Michael Dahilig, the Kauai Planning Commission voted to repeal the last Iniki Ordinance.

Waters said the project now has the support of Carvalho and Dahilig, and the Iniki Ordinance is still law. The Hui has the right to rebuild the property the way it was, “and that’s what we intend to do.”

Alan Veach, representing a group of investors working on the Coco Palms Resort, realizes the significance of the work he’s doing.

“Everyone’s got a story about Coco Palms,” Veach, who is currently supervising other projects on Kauai, said during a brief blessing Friday morning.

Work on clearing overgrowth along the fence line started Thursday afternoon, but the blessing officiated by Lady Ipo Kahaunaele-Ferreira commemorated the work starting on the resort, which has been closed since being damaged in Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

“Over the years, we have heard many plans for the Coco Palms property, but this is the first time we’ve seen real action,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. after learning that demolition permits for the Coco Palms property have been obtained by the Coco Palms Hui.

“There is no way to predict what will happen, but it has always been my hope that whatever happens with the property, its historical and cultural significance will be preserved,” the mayor said.

Craig Kawakami of Craig Kawakami Builders said his crews are tasked with putting up dust screens along the perimeter of the property.

“We started clearing the overgrowth Thursday,” Kawakami said. “We should be finishing up today. Roger Taniguchi will remove all of the material, and we’ll start putting up the dust screen.”

Planning Director Mike Dahilig, in a release from the county, noted that only a demolition permit has been sought at this time.

“Any future permit applications by Coco Palms Hui will be evaluated appropriately as the law provides at the time of submittal,” Dahilig said.

Carvalho, in June, initiated a bill that would repeal the remaining provisions of the so-called “Iniki ordinance.” The bill was approved by the Planning Commission.

The Iniki ordinance allows for the restoration of a non-conforming building or structure to its pre-Iniki condition.

The bill is expected to be forwarded to the Kauai County Council by the Planning Department within the next two weeks for its consideration.

See also:
Island Breath: Kauai Lagoons False Advertizing 3/18/08
Island Breath: Koloa Landing 6/28/2007


Anonymous said...

I am so very excited, I want to renew my wedding vow's at the famous lagoon.
Susan Gachassin-Owens

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Susan,

I don't think you get the drift of this article. The title is "Coco Palms Travesty". I don't think the hotel will ever be brought back to anything related to glory.

This looks like a scam to play on the nostalgia surrounding the hotel by a lawyer "developer" to make a quick buck being bought off as this land is eventually converted into a public commons.

IB Publisher

Anonymous said...

pfft.... I SUPPORT the rebuilding of Coco Palms as it WILL bring MUCH needed jobs to our island!

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Anonymous,

Forget about the ongoing problems of rising seas and continued beach erosion.

Growing our own food on this island will provide more critical jobs (and be more important) than tourism when oil costs makes flying an uneconomical commercial exercise.

The airlines can barely hang to profitability on now. And eventually the packaged and frozen food from the mainland will stop arriving.

The Coco Palms, if built, will be again a rotting sideshow along the road.

IB Publisher

Anonymous said...

^^Late in the game, I know but I just stumbled upon this article. All I can say about the Coco Palms is that it had so much problems with sewage flooding the basement garage. Usually after a big rain. Kapaa does not need another resort causing more traffic at what is quite possibly the worst and slowest intersection on the island. And, I'm sorry, but the former glory of the Coco Palms has passed (Kaua'i locals would probably shun me for saying this). New visitors no longer want the 50s-era, Elvis, Big Band, Don Ho, plastic skirt experience anymore. Resorts are now looking to promote more authentic (as authentic as they can get anyway) Hawaii. Tourists now want to do what they think the locals do and go where they think the locals go. I agree with the author, the site should be a cultural park that highlights self-sustainability in the old Hawaiian way.

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine lost tons of money investing with these clowns they take your money then never repay you while changing the companies name. they also dont have a office They may just take all the money and move to mexico .

Anonymous said...

I get your drift, don't you worry about that Juan.
Guess what, I'm still excited to see the renovations happening!!

Juan Wilson said...

Alpha Anonymous,

Actually, I'm not worried. I've made it my business to stay close to home on the south and west side of Kauai. I rarely travel east as far as Wailua.

Collapse of the phoney economy we suffer in is coming. I advise all to get prepared for the end of tourism and frozen pizza.

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