By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Plans for the rebuilding of the tsunami-ravaged Kona Village Resort call for a new spa, arrival pavilion, conference center, administration building, presidential suite and retail facility, as well as rebuilding of damaged and destroyed bungalows.
Those plans were outlined in a March 19 letter from Steven Lim, a Hilo attorney representing Kona Village Investors LLC, to Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, former county planning director.
The popular Kona resort has been closed since sustaining more than $20 million in damage during the March 11, 2011, tsunami.
Pat Fitzgerald, the resort’s president and CEO, told Travel Weekly magazine in February 2012 that the age of the resort, built in the 1960s, was complicating insurance settlement negotiations, resulting in delays in the resort’s restoration.
Fitzgerald also told the publication that it would likely cost $15-$20 million above damage repairs to bring the resort’s aging infrastructure up to code.
Lim’s letter stated that the plans include rebuilding of the resort’s Hale Samoa and Hale Moana “including the construction of new restaurant decking … similar to Hualalai Resort’s Beach Tree Restaurant,” as well as rebuilding/repairs of all the resort’s pools and bars, plus two new guest laundry buildings.
Fitzgerald told the magazine last year that repairs should be complete by the end of this year, but Lim’s letter indicated that the Planning Department approved an extension for final plan approvals to Dec. 14, 2015, as well as a waiver of shoreline certification “since all improvements will be ‘limited to the existing general building envelope’ of the project.”
As many of the resort’s 125 thatched-roof bungalows, or “hales,” received major damage from the tsunami caused by an earthquake in Japan, and more than 200 employees lost their jobs, although some were hired at other hotels owned by the resort’s parent company, Four Seasons.
A Facebook fan page called “Save Kona Village” has generated 3,860 “likes,” with posts of news and rumors about the resort, memories of stays there, and news about resort employees and former employees, such as a Friday post welcoming “Kona village hero” Craig Ynigues home after his second year-long deployment in Afghanistan.
Another Friday post by Sacramento attorney Bill Partmann, one of the page’s administrators, noted: “No building permits issued for KVR in July.”
Former guests of the resort wax nostalgic about Kona Village and express optimism about its future.
Kathryn Hovorka Martin wrote: “I’ve been to Hawaii 9 times. It takes me 9 hours to get there. Despite the fact that there are ‘other’ islands, all 9 times have been spent only at KV. That’s how much I loved that place. Finding it was a happy accident, produced by an Internet search for a great place in HI to spend our vacation. Leaving was always hard, but I knew we’d be back again. I never dreamed that it would go away. When it reopens, we’ll be grateful to return and hope for the best.”
Added Mike Jaixen: “The faces will change. The hales will change. The landscaping will change. But as long as the essence of the Village remains (solitude, the feeling of welcome from the staff, respect for the culture, and the beauty of the surroundings) and is available at a price that I can afford, we’ll be back.”
Calls Friday to Fitzgerald, Lim and Partmann were not returned by press time.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.