KONA, Hawaii – Today is a big day for higher education in West Hawaii.
The long awaited groundbreaking for the Hawaii Community College Pālamanui campus, the new extension of University of Hawaii system that will be built in Kona, took place on Tuesday afternoon (media release below).
Governor Neil Abercrombie joined other elected officials and top university administrators for the milestone moment.
Many times, it seemed like the project was far from guaranteed. But the community persisted in making its desire for the campus known.
In November 2010, University of Hawaii system officials announced that the long envisioned Palamanui campus would become a reality.
Planned for a 8-acre site owned by the University, a lava field located about a mile north of Kona Airport, officials hope to serve about 700 students when the first phase is completed.
The project also plans to have a LEED Platinum designation – which means the complex will employ the most advanced technology to conserve resources.
Driving the project is a public-private partnership, between the university and Palamanui Partners, LLC… Hunt Development Group and Charles R. Schwab.
Under the agreement, the university said it would build a $4.7 million access road to the site, and Palamanui Partners would commit to spending an equal amount toward building the first of two planned phases of the community college project.
The university went ahead with its end of the bargain in March 2011, blessing the site where the new road will go through.
Interim Chancellor Noreen Yamane was named to the position full time.
In February 2012, The University received $9.68 million from Palamanui LLC for phase one, part of an overall $20 million so far.. A ceremony was held at the West Hawaii Civic Center.
Local lawmakers like Kona’s county councilwoman Brenda Ford were so excited about the potential for Palamanui, they went to the council with requests for hundreds of millions in capitol improvement money to facilitate ambitious projects that would compliment the future development – like sports facilities and theaters.
A few months later, Governor Neil Abercrombie released $7.5 million in general obligation bonds to finance construction of the first phase, bringing the total available to about $17 million.
The project went out to bid in November 2012 – it would include construction of Palamanui’s Culinary Arts Building and the Health Science and Student Services Building.
But things took a turn for the worse in January, when the lowest bidder, Nan, Inc, who came in at $21 million, withdrew. The next lowest bidder, F&H Construction, was way over what the college could afford. The Palamanui campus was in jeopardy.
The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents was able to recommend that bond proceeds be re-purposed for the Pālamanui campus development. Then, officials were able to bring down the bid cost in order to afford the project.
The University of Hawaii issued this media release when the event was finished:
KAILUA-KONA (May 28, 2013) — Hawai‘i Community College held a kīpaepae ‘eli honua, or groundbreaking ceremony, on Tuesday for Hawai‘i Community College — Pālamanui, its new campus in Kona.
“Higher education has the power to transform students’ lives, and this new campus will ensure we are delivering quality, affordable college programs to our entire Hawai‘i Island community,” said Hawai‘i Community College Chancellor Noreen Yamane.
West Hawai’i is the only remaining major geographic region and population center in the state of Hawai‘i without a permanent facility for higher education. Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i currently offer programs in leased facilities in a shopping center in Kealakekua.
The Pālamanui campus has been in the planning phase for nine years, but university, government and community leaders have been working to build a permanent home for higher education in West Hawai‘i for over two decades.
“This is a proud day and a long awaited dream come true,” said University of Hawai‘i President M.R.C. Greenwood. “The new Hawai’i Community College — Pālamanui will be a state-of-the-art, energy-independent campus that will serve as a model for other state projects.”
“With the support of many people, we are finally able to break ground on the first phase of the new campus for Hawai’i Community College – Palamanui,” said John Morton, Vice President for Community Colleges. “We are committed to increasing the opportunity for higher education in West Hawai’i, not just with programs from Hawai’i Community College but also by continuing to serve as a University Center to deliver programs from UH Hilo, UH West O’ahu, and UH Manoa as well.”
Pālamanui LLC — a partnership between Charles R. Schwab and Hunt Companies — has offered significant financial support to help fund the development of Hawai‘i Community College — Pālamanui.
Pālamanui LLC donated $9.68 million for construction and also contributed $10 million in infrastructure improvements for water, power and sewer that directly benefit the college. Pālamanui LLC is building a mixed-use community on 725 acres adjacent to the campus to support the long-term needs of Hawai‘i Community College — Pālamanui and the University of Hawai‘i.
Hunt Companies Hawai‘i Division President Steve Colón, representing Pālamanui LLC, said, “Building the Hawai‘i Community College — Pālamanui campus is a commitment we share with the community. Charles R. Schwab and the Hunt Companies are honored to have played a part in helping to make this new campus a reality. Community building begins with investing in our youth, and the new Hawai‘i CC — Pālamanui campus will become the great equalizer for many families in their quest for access to higher education in West Hawai‘i. Today’s ceremonies launch the community’s vision of what’s possible for our keiki.”
A $25.5 million bid from F&H Construction has been accepted for construction of Phase 1A and Phase 1B of the Pālamanui campus. If everything goes as planned, Hawai‘i Community College hopes to move into the new facilities in 2015.
The first phase of construction will result in 24,000 square feet of learning space, which includes classrooms, science laboratories, learning kitchens, and a learning commons area that consists of a library, learning center, and testing center.
The campus will also feature a large photovoltaic system.
All the programs that are currently offered by Hawai‘i Community College and UH in Kealakekua will be offered at the new campus, including culinary arts, nursing, liberal arts, Hawaiian studies, and more. New programs will be offered at Hawai‘i Community College — Pālamanui based on community needs, space availability, funding and curricula development.