Owners of Former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Hotel Seeking State Money to Knock Burned Structure Down

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Firefighters survey the damage inside the old hotel on March. 4. PC: DLNR

The owners of the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel that suffered $2 million in damages during a March 4 fire want to demolish the remains of the building.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources told Big Island Now on Tuesday, March 15 that it will cost around $13.5 million to knock the structure down and it will make a request this session from the legislature to fund the work.

The former Uncle Billy’s hotel and several other Banyan Drive properties are under the jurisdiction of the state DLNR Land Division and have been for more than 50 years.


DLNR has been pursuing demolition and redevelopment of the property for some time, but the effort has been on hold due to lack of funds for demolition as well as non-DLNR related litigation.

The building suffered damage during an early morning March 4 fire. The state is self-insured, so money would have to be appropriated from the legislature for demolition. The DLNR sought funding to take down the building in 2019, but was denied. 

“The existing structures have no insurable value and require demolition,” a spokesman from the department stated on Tuesday.


An arson investigation was opened by the Hawai‘i Police Department after the fire.

One man, Antanacious Nau, was arrested later that day for possessing drug paraphernalia and criminal trespassing for squatting in the old hotel during a search by authorities after the fire was extinguished. He was released pending investigation on drug charges, not with anything to do with the fire.

Two others at the hotel that day were cited for trespassing.


The cause of the fire that leveled an estimated $2 million in damages is believed to be electrical in nature and possibly due to someone having tampered with an electrical junction box, authorities have said.

The DLNR communications office said on Tuesday it couldn’t comment on active investigations.

“Current estimates are $13.5 million to demolish the buildings,” the DLNR office stated. “The Land Division unsuccessfully sought an appropriation for demolition during the 2019 legislative session and is making a renewed request this session … Funds will need to be appropriated by the legislature for demolition.”

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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