Education center could open in 2010
A subdivision builder will include space for a community college
KAILUA-KONA » Big Island community college students might have new digs when classes begin in the fall of 2010.
Developers of Palamanui, a 725-acre subdivision north of Kailua-Kona, announced last week they are eyeing that time to complete a 20,000-square-foot building to house the University of Hawaii-West Hawaii Center.
The community college education center is housed in an old supermarket complex in Kealakekua, a rented space that has long been inadequate for the 400-500 students it serves.
West Hawaii residents have been demanding better secondary education opportunities for more than two decades, but university officials have said they have no long-term plan for a two- or four-year campus in West Hawaii.
Instead, the education center will remain a secondary campus of Hawaii Community College, which is in line for a new 100-acre campus in Hilo.
The education center in Palamanui will be built next to a 500-acre parcel of vacant land east of Kona Airport that the University of Hawaii Board of Regents selected in 1991 for a new education complex.
Plans for that project sputtered until the Palamanui developers offered to build the initial classrooms, offices and resource center. Palamanui also is committed to providing the initial sewer lines, waterlines and a connector road that will be needed by the university for its own lands.
The developer, a partnership among investment brokerage firm owner Charles Schwab, Kona contractor Guy Lam and Texas-based Hunt Development Group, has put the price tag at $5 million.
West Hawaii students make up roughly one-fifth of the more than 2,500-student enrollment at Hawaii Community College and attend classes in 13,500 square feet of converted shopping center space.
With the new space, enrollment likely will double to about 1,000 students, said Jim Lightner, hospitality division chairman of Hawaii Community College Food Service Program in West Hawaii and Hilo.
The culinary program includes a 500-square-foot classroom with a 1,000-square-foot kitchen, Lightner said. That program is slated to take up some 3,500 square feet in the Palamanui building.
"That's a plus for us," Lightner said. "It'll make a real difference."
The developer touts the $700 million, 725-acre community as a reflection of what residents envisioned through their community development plan for sustainable urban-style neighborhoods where people can live, work, learn and play within walking distance of their homes.
The development will include about 1,000 single and multifamily residences, a town center with a 120-room business-and-leisure hotel and a small town shopping village.
Palamanui will also have a 70-acre business park, health court and lifelong learning center, and a 20-acre regional park to be dedicated to the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
A 55-acre native low-land dry forest and archaeological and cave preserves also will be set aside for restoration and preservation purposes.
Ground was broken on the Palamanui site in August.