TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Coco Palms interior designer Jonathan Staub of Philpotts and Associates surveys his work in the mock condo setup in the new Coco Palms sales office. Tomorrow, 200 condos in the famous resort will go on sale.
Pre-sale parties revive Kauai resort's past
WAILUA, Kauai » Most resorts do not throw two consecutive parties, with guests totaling 500, just to sell 200 condos. Especially when the condos are not even built yet.
But the Coco Palms Resort is not like any place else.
After all, the 35-acre resort was once the jewel of Kauai. It was the site of Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii." And for centuries the site was the home of Hawaiian kings and queens.
The developers start selling condos tomorrow, months before groundbreaking is scheduled to begin.
The parties were more a way to re-establish the cultural tradition of Coco Palms, the ambience and spirit of aloha for the land fronting Wailua Bay, said Richard Weiser, one of the project's developers.
"A lot (of the attraction) is a mental state," said Weiser yesterday as they prepared for the second party. "People who stayed here stayed within the surroundings. It became like a second home."
The attraction of what Coco Palms used to be still brings tourists daily by the vanload, and weddings are common in the chapel on the grounds, which still has lagoons and a huge coconut grove.
But the majority of the buildings have been in disrepair since Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and will have to be destroyed to make way for the new resort, which is scheduled to open in fall 2008.
Weiser, though, is dedicated to restoring the grandeur of the resort and hiring back old employees who made the place special.
"We're saving something," he said. "We're not doing new construction."
Jonathan Staub, who is part of the team designing the resort, said they have just taken the style created by longtime General Manager Grace Guslander, and modernized it.
He joked that he is still trying to convince the developers of returning the sinks in the shape of shells, one of Guslander's famous details.
"She has been the guide," Staub said of Guslander, who died in 2000. "She would have made (the resort) current if Iniki didn't hit."
Staub, from Honolulu, said he is often told story after story when mentioning the Coco Palms, and he feels a responsibility to those with history on the grounds.
"There's only one Coco Palms," he said. "There's such a feeling of aloha for this property."
Prices have not been released on the 200 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, but Weiser said interest is high and he expects them to sell out quickly. Also, 47 bungalows will be built to accommodate standard hotel guests.
Almost 300 people are expected to work at the resort when it is operational, Weiser said.