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Wednesday, June 23, 2004



Demolition of Big Isle’s
Kona Lagoon Hotel starts


KAILUA-KONA >> Demolition of the long-shuttered Kona Lagoon Hotel began this week, part of landowner Kamehameha Schools' 20-year plan to turn the Keauhou Resort area into a traditional Hawaiian resort.

Tearing down the 30-year-old hotel, which has been closed since 1988, began Monday with the demolition of a long house on the property. The demolition is expected to be completed by November, said Rick Robinson, director of Kamehameha Schools' Commercial Assets Division.

The hotel grounds feature several Hawaiian archaeological sites, including petroglyphs and three heiau, including Keeku, which belongs to a class of temples known as luakini (temple of human sacrifice) and puuhonua (temple of refuge).

The 454-room Kona Lagoon Hotel was completed in 1974 at a cost of $10.5 million. In 1988, Japanese developer Azabu USA announced a $65 million plan to renovate and combine it with the neighboring Keauhou Beach Hotel into a single resort, but the collapse of the Japanese economy and other issues prevented the company from carrying out its plans.

Since then, the hotel had grown "functionally obsolete," Robinson said.

"We went through eight proposals to redevelop the property, and none of them could make it work economically in its current configuration," he said.

A cultural preserve will replace the hotel at the historically significant north end, with time share units to be built at the south end of the property. The site of the old hotel will be replaced with landscaping, Robinson said.

"We're not going to leave it an empty lot," he said.

In February, Kamehameha Schools announced an $800 million upgrade of the 2,400-acre Keauhou area that calls for more of a traditional Big Island-style resort emphasizing Hawaiian cultural activities.

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