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Kona Village Resort eyes 2021 reopening

  • A refurbished Kona Village Resort is depicted. (Courtesy photo / Special to West Hawaii)
  • The Kona Village Resort was ripped apart by the March 2011 tsunami. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kona Village hale still stand at the resort after being closed since the 2011 tsunami caused irreparable damage. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The Kona Village Resort could potentially reopen in 2021, a decade after sustaining heavy damage from the 2011 tsunami.

That’s according to Dave Eadie of Kennedy Wilson, the real estate investment firm that in 2016 agreed with Kamehameha Schools to work toward reopening the iconic destination.

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Eadie’s remarks about progress at the resort came during a meeting of the Leeward Planning Commission on Thursday, during which commissioners discussed and approved a five-year extension to complete expansion and renovations at the North Kona resort project.

“There’s a lot of expectations to put the 300-plus employees back to work, and that isn’t lost on us,” Eadie told the commission. “We want to get this done efficiently and as expeditiously as possible through the permitting process.”

Kona Village Resort, located just north of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, originally opened in 1965, running for more than four decades until the 2011 tsunami damaged utility lines and about 20 of the 125 bungalows, two restaurants, the main office and activity center, according to a 2016 report published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Kennedy Wilson took over the resort after lenders had filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the resort’s former owner, Kona Village Investors LLC.

In August 2016, Kamehameha Schools announced a ground lease agreement with Kennedy Wilson to reopen the 81.4-acre resort, at the time anticipating it to be “fully operational” by summer 2019.

In a press release announcing the agreement, Kamehameha Schools said the investment firm agreed to maintain the original vision of Kona Village Resort, specifically as a “low-density iconic destination.”

And while the timeline for reopening the resort has been pushed back, Eadie said Thursday the vision remains the same.

“It’s very special, and everybody’s anxious and, in fact, relying upon us to perpetuate that vibe as we go forward,” he said.

And having considered market conditions and how to remain competitive in this day, he said they are for the most part moving on the plan in place.

“I think what you’ll find at the end of the day is the new Kona Village is going to be a re-statement, but updated for where we are at this point in time,” he said.

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Eadie said they will shortly be initiating utility work at the site. He added that some of the hale and other buildings at the site are being taken down, saying many were damaged or not up-to-code, and one condition for approval with the county’s Planning Department is to bring all units up to code.

They are also building two prototype hale, he added, which can be used as models for the remaining hale planned to be built at the site.