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Hilo Hawaiian plans $6M makeover BLNR loosens axis deer hunting rules

HILO — The Hilo Hawaiian may soon get a makeover.

The bayside hotel on Banyan Drive is planning $5.8 million in improvements that will include renovations of each of its 286 rooms. The transformation involves new tile, carpet, wall coverings, furniture, plumbing and bathroom fixtures, and lighting.

Additionally, the 37-year-old hotel would receive a new fire alarm system and roof coating, and have its elevators upgraded.

In turn, it is requesting a 37-year extension of its lease with the state. Its current lease, which began in 1966, ends in 2031.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the request Friday in concept, meaning details of a lease extension and development agreement still need to be worked out with the department. Final approval will come at a later date.

George Applegate of the Big Island Visitors Bureau said the plans would bump the hotel from a 2 to 2 1/2-star rating to 3 stars.

“That would make a huge difference,” he said.

It’s unclear when the work is expected to begin or finish.

Castle Resorts, which owns the hotel, didn’t return multiple requests for comment.

The hotel opened in 1975.

Castle Resorts purchased it from CarVal Investors for $17.3 million in 2010.

At the time, company president Alan Matson said it acquired the hotel for the long term and planned to invest in it.

“The vision for this ownership group is to have a long-term hold on the asset …” he said then.

The plans provide a bit of good news for Hilo hotels following a foreclosure filing against Naniloa Volcanoes Resort, also located on Banyan Drive.

North Carolina-based First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. filed to foreclose on a loan with the hotel in August. Naniloa owed $9.9 million in principal and interest as of June 12.

Applegate said the upgrade would encourage more tourists to stay a night in Hilo and hopefully lead to more flights.

He said the town remains the starting point for people visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park but not enough stick around.

“You don’t get the business that we want,” Applegate said.

A 3-star hotel could change that, he said.

A law enacted last year requires hotels operating on state lands to improve their lodgings in order to receive a lease extension.

The proposed lease extension would allow the hotel to remain until 2068.

Castle resorts also plans to set aside 3 percent of its room revenue for maintenance.

In other actions Friday, BLNR voted to allow hunters on the Big Island to kill axis deer without a special permit for five years and fined Connections Public Charter School $500 for unauthorized clearing and fencing on state land.

The vote allows hunters to control deer on public lands without restrictions for season or bag limit. All other hunting rules, such as hunting only during daylight hours and the requirement of a valid hunting license, remain in effect. Hunting on private lands requires permission of the landowner.

Hunting axis deer previously required a special permit since they were not identified as a game animal.

The DLNR asks that the number and location of any deer taken be reported to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife office in Hilo, at (808) 974-4221.

Also on Friday, Connections was cited after it hired a contractor to put up a fence on land it is leasing for a new school near Kaumana Drive in Hilo.

The contractor also removed ohia trees without approval.

The school will also be required to submit a restoration plan for the property.