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Coco Palms Resort site of some worker activity as year ends

WAILUA — Construction workers were seen working on the property of the former Coco Palms Resort on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, following multiple statements from the developer that demolition for the site’s rebuild would start by the end of the year.

Over the last several months, amid opposition from community members, representatives for developer Reef Capital Partners have stated they would start demolition by the end of the year and reconstruct the 350-room resort by 2026.

Reef Capital’s communications adviser Shane Peters had told The Garden Island multiple times that the demolition was on track to start by year’s end.

But in an email response on Dec. 29, Peters declined to say whether demolition had started at the site.

“I haven’t been able to get a hold of the team (holidays are always tough), so I don’t think I’ll have a response for your deadline,” he said in an email response.

Mauna Kea Trask, attorney for Reef Capital Partners, also declined to provide an update. He deferred all questions to Peters.

Peters repeated he was unable to say whether or not Reef Capital was working on demolition. “I don’t have an update from (the Reef Capital) team on that,” he said in another message.

At least five construction members were seen at the fenced-off site on Friday afternoon, which included felled tree branches being picked up and moved with an excavator, as well as another worker using a chain saw. However, the dilapidated structures, which define the site, remained in place.

Reef Capital workers were previously seen working at the site back in April, before the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) ordered they stop all work due to alleged land-use violations on state-owned parcels near the private property. Those violations included failure to maintain the premises, failure to submit annual reports, failure to pay property taxes and cutting down palm trees without consent.

Controversy has surrounded the now-infamous Coco Palms Resort since its destruction by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, with several previous developers making failed attempts to rebuild the site over the last three decades.

Reef Capital Partners, a Utah-based real estate investment firm, officially took ownership of the property in 2022, and has maintained it is the only organization with the financial resources to restore the site.

“We are on track to start demolition here before the end of the year, and then begin vertical construction, which we call, and is more accurately called, the restoration of the Coco Palms and the rehabilitation of the Coco Palms, next year,” said Reef Capital Partners Chief Financial Officer John Day in an interview with The Garden Island on Oct. 18, 2023.

Those comments were made just after Day and other Reef Capital representatives held a community meeting that abruptly ended mid-presentation due to opposition from residents against the rebuild.

At the time, Day said it was unfortunate there was a “loud group that ruin(ed)” their plan to provide an update to the community.

“One thing that everyone agrees on is that the current state of this site is not desirable. And you know, as a practical matter, our plan is the only practical one that realistically can be done to put this site into a condition that is respectful of the history here and can bring the community together and we look forward to doing that,” he said.

In an email response on Dec. 29, the DLNR’s Communications Specialist Ryan Aguilar confirmed Reef Capital could move forward with the demolition.

“Land Division staff don’t believe DLNR has anything that would prevent the developers from moving forward with the demo,” Aguilar said.
Source: The Garden Island

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