Seeing renderings of the proposed Hawaii Atlantis Hotel at Ko Olina is a Rorschach test of one’s sensibilities. Does the envisioned gleaming resort evoke marvel and excitement, or is its ostentatiousness hopelessly out of touch with Hawaii?
Many open questions swirl around the $1.5 billion resort broached by overseas developer China Oceanwide Holdings Ltd., which surely sees marvel in its 1,400-room project featuring an aquarium and water park. In January, Hawaii’s Commission on Water Resource Management granted Oceanwide a water use and well construction permit to get 720,000 gallons of salt water daily from three proposed wells for its aquarium and “aquaventure” amenities.
The city now is reviewing the company’s application for a building permit for a retaining wall and shoreline path improvements. Given Ko Olina’s past controversies over public access to the shoreline, any work will need to be watched carefully.
While flashy by Hawaii standards, this project doesn’t look as over-the-top as Atlantis’ other resorts as in, say, Dubai. Still, the open questions extend beyond its scale and “sense of place” appropriateness; they also involve the ability to deliver the grand vision as promised, a pitfall encountered by other projects here. Remember that environmental snafus and escalating costs forced the former Ewa Marina project to ditch its marquee marina; and that financing difficulties forced Honey Bee USA to quit its plans for the Ala Wall Small Boat Harbor, leaving a construction yard in its wake.
Adding to the nervousness: in January, a financing problem with Oceanwide’s new condominium/hotel complex in Los Angeles forced construction to abruptly halt.
Whether or not Hawaii Atlantis ultimately rises from the sea, expect newsworthy waves each time it tries.