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Foreign cash sought to reopen famed Kauai resort

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The Coco Palms was once a popular resort in Kapaa

LIHUE >> Developers trying to rebuild a Kauai resort made famous by Elvis Presley and ravaged by a hurricane hope to rely on foreign investments.

The Coco Palms Resort is the only major hotel that did not reopen after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Built in 1953, the property became famous when Presley filmed his 1961 movie "Blue Hawaii" there.

Developer Coco Palms Hui LLC is seeking federal approval to take advantage of a program that provides green cards to foreign nationals who help the economy by investing in new business deals, principal Tyler Greene told the Garden Island in a report published Tuesday.

It will cost about $125 million to rebuild, which includes buying the land from hotel owner Prudential Insurance and installing a photovoltaic system to power the resort, he said.

"We initially reached out to local banks here, but typically, local banks here don’t want to fund a construction loan that is over $30 to $40 million," Greene said.

Some county officials are worried about the prospect of using foreign loans to rebuild the historic hotel.

"I guess I’m concerned about having people who don’t have a stake in the community, and I just don’t know how long the commitment will be and what kind of commitment it will be to the community," Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said.

Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Coco Palms Hui announced in May that a Hyatt affiliate entered into a management agreement for the resort. It would be called Coco Palms by Hyatt, Greene said. Hyatt plans to contribute to rebuilding, he said.

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