The artist’s rendering will soon become reality at the long-awaited Hawaii Community College at Palamanui, thanks to the recent release of state general obligation bonds.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced Wednesday the release of $7.5 million in bonds for the construction of a culinary arts building and a health science and student services building. In May, the state Legislature approved the appropriation for phases IA and IB of the college to be combined with a January payment of $9.68 million by developer Palamanui LLC.
“We’re really excited,” said James Lightner, Hawaii Community College at the University Center in West Hawaii’s culinary arts program assistant professor and hospitality division chairman. “The campus will provide higher education opportunities and help create the educated, skilled workforce necessary to be competitive in today’s economy.”
The funding allotment was among the more than $92 million released for priority capital improvement projects throughout the University of Hawaii system. Legislators identified seven projects for funding, most of which pertained to UH West Oahu.
“The release of these CIP funds represents our investment for future economic stability,” Abercrombie said. “I am especially looking forward to the expansion of the University of Hawaii system in West Hawaii, where the population continues to grow. The Hawaii Community College at Palamanui will not only create new jobs, but unique academic opportunities in the sciences and agricultural fields.”
John Morton, vice president for community colleges, said UH was “extremely happy” about the funding release. He called the allocation of funds “a great move forward.” He also added the West Hawaii community has shown great patience.
UH President MRC Greenwood also expressed excitement and gratitude for the funding, saying it enables the university to “start the building process for this much-anticipated campus and brings the promise of a college degree that much closer to Hawaii residents.”
A partnership between Hunt Companies Hawaii and Charles R. Schwab, Palamanui LLC is completing infrastructure improvements, worth about $10 million, for the university to connect to electricity and water lines, increasing the company’s investment to nearly $20 million. The campus has been in the development stage for almost nine years.
Architectural design firm Urban Works has completed the plans and final design documents, enabling the bid process to begin on the construction on UH’s first-ever permanent campus in West Hawaii. Bidding on the simultaneous building of Phase IA and IB will likely start by month’s end or early September, Morton said.
The two phases will encompass 23,100 square feet of classroom, laboratory and support spaces for 700 students. Construction will likely take 15 to 18 months to complete, he said.
The school will be the 11th permanent campus of the UH system and is expected to open its doors to students in fall 2014, Morton said.
Roughly 450 students currently attend the Kealakekua campus, which has 12,500 square feet of classroom and office space. Planned second and third phases of the Palamanui campus would bring the community college’s capacity to 1,400 students.
“For years, the university has recognized West Hawaii was an area not well-served and was high on its priority list,” he said. “This campus will help ensure access and opportunities for all people who want to pursue post-secondary education.”