Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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UH deal will replace Kona college campus

A 78-acre site is slated for Hawaii Community College at Palamanui

By Gene Park


The University of Hawaii and a Big Island developer signed an agreement yesterday to begin construction of a replacement for Hawaii Community College's Kona campus.

Hawaii Community College at Palamanui will be built on a 78-acre site north of Kona Airport.

Developer Palamanui Partners LLC will provide about $9.2 million in funding for the university system to build an access road to the site, as well as the first of two planned phases of the community college project.

UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said the public-private partnership will also aim to create an energy-efficient campus, and that it would have the highest possible ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"It also serves as a university center to allow degrees to be delivered to the west side of Hawaii," said John Morton, vice president for community colleges. "It's another great example of the university acting as a system."

The first phase will include a building and a portion of a second building that will be extended in the second phase. Morton said UH would seek private funding for the second phase.

The campus would provide about 23,000 square feet of space and incorporate the university's West Hawaii Center, which will be relocated from its current 12,500-square-foot leased space at an old supermarket complex in Kealakekua.

Palamanui is a planned 725-acre subdivision north of Kailua-Kona, with about 1,000 units. The developer has touted the $700 million community as a reflection of what residents envisioned through their community development plan for a sustainable neighborhood where people can live, work, learn and play within walking distance of their homes.

The developer is a partnership between brokerage firm owner Charles Schwab and Kona contractor Guy Lam.

West Hawaii residents have been demanding better secondary education opportunities for more than two decades. The land was acquired by the university in 1991, but construction plans sputtered until Palamanui developers offered to build the initial classrooms, offices and center.

"It's bringing the university right on our boundary," Lam said. "It's going to be great for our project."

The West Hawaii Center has about 700 students. Interim Hawaii Community College Chancellor Noreen Yamane hopes to see more than double that in the next few years.

The new facility will also use photovoltaic cells and vertical-access windmills to generate energy from the sun and wind. There will be waterless toilets, and sewage will be treated at the complex, allowing the water to be reused for landscaping.

The state and the Hawaii County Council have already provided the zoning approvals. The campus design and county building permits must be finalized, Greenwood said.

Groundbreaking for the access road will begin later this year or early next year. The first phase of construction will begin in fall 2011 and is expected to be finished by fall 2012.

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