- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - The lobby of the Hilo Naniloa Hotel has been moved down a floor, signaling that long-awaited renovations to the 383-room building have begun.

Oahu-based developer Ed Bushor, a partner in the project with Hilo businessman Ed Olson, said he’s optimistic they will obtain a loan to pay for an estimated $12 million in improvements, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/144NeXy) reported.

“The economy has now turned (for the better),” he said. “Last year, in 2013, there weren’t that many lenders out in the marketplace. In 2014, they’re turning over a new leaf.”

Bushor and Olson spent about $7 million to acquire the lease to the hotel on state land. The renovated hotel will have a museum theme, he said.

A “national-brand franchise” will be brought in to market the hotel, but Hawaii-based Aqua Hotels and Resorts will continue to manage the property, Bushor said.

All construction permits are in place, Bushor said. About 150 rooms in the Mauna Kea Tower remain available online. The revised estimate for finishing renovations in the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea towers, giving the hotel 320 available rooms, is mid-summer.

Renovations to the 63-room Kilauea Tower will come last, Bushor said.

Plans for the lobby include sections with past, present and future themes.

“The highlight of the lobby will be a new center staircase down and a new eating lounge and bar area that will allow locals to enjoy the lobby without a wall blocking the view,” Bushor said. A wall that obscured the lobby ocean view has been demolished, he said.

The hotel’s Crown Room was once Hilo’s premier music venue. The room can seat 350 to 400. After a $250,000 renovation overseen by Maui entertainer Willie K, plans call for renting the room to promoters for concerts or organizations for a high-tech daytime meeting room, Bushor said.

Bushor said he and Olson “are committed to re-branding this hotel for the community and giving Hilo a great hotel back.”

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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