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Hawaii Community College at Palamanui progressing

Updated: 
March 20, 2014 - 10:11am

The first students could graduate from Hawaii Community College at Palamanui in 2017.

The site, located north of mile marker 91 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, has been graded, underground utilities installed and the foundation prepared for the first phase of the long-awaited West Hawaii community college, said Jim Lightner, culinary arts program assistant professor and hospitality division chairman told West Hawaii Today recently. Crews are expected to begin pouring concrete pads in early April, he added.

That means, Lightner said, that students who enroll in the community college in fall 2015 — when the Palamanui campus is slated to open — could graduate with an associate degree in spring 2017.

Michael Unebasami, associate vice president for administration at Hawaii Community College, confirmed the campus expects to have students in classrooms for the fall 2015 semester. He said the grading and rock crushing has been completed with the exception of an area where a petroglyph was located. Crews are in the process of working around that petroglyph.

The first phase includes the initial 24,000 square feet of learning space that will include classrooms, laboratories and support spaces for 700 students in the culinary arts, nursing and health programs, and student services administration.

The culinary arts program has already raised more than $100,000 to help with covering the cost of stocking the culinary arts facility with “contemporary culinary equipment,” Lightner said.

Fundraising of an additional $100,000 continues to cover equipping the second phase of the culinary arts program facility. That phase, however, will not be available until subsequent phases at the Palamanui campus are funded, Lightner said.

According to the University of Hawaii’s fiscal biennium budget for 2013 to 2015, no additional capital improvement project funding is being requested for the Palamanui campus in fiscal year 2014-15 and beyond.

Unebasami said the university is currently focused on completion of the first phase when prompted about securing funding for future phases.

Construction of the University of Hawaii’s 11th campus began in May 2013. F&H Construction of Maui and California was awarded the $25.1 million contract for the first phase.

Right now, students attending University of Hawaii Center at West Hawaii do so in classrooms scattered across a retail center in Kealakekua. Roughly 450 students currently attend school at that campus, which has 12,500 square feet of classroom and office space.

Planned second and third phases of the 78-acre Palamanui campus would bring the community college’s capacity to 1,400 students. The first phase brings the capacity to 700 pupils.