Hawaii Community College at Palamanui broke ground on Tuesday, May 28, with a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dignitaries and involved members of the Hawaii Community College at Palamanui attended the groundbreaking on May 28. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Mayor Billy Kenoi speaks at the Hawaii Community College at Palamanui groundbreaking on May 28. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
When officials broke ground for Palamanui, Hawaii Community College’s new campus in Kailua-Kona on May 28, it was the culmination of almost a quarter of a century of dreams, hard work, perseverance and many false starts. But for the officials who are committed to seeing its architectural designs completed, the dream is only the beginning.
“The history of establishing a permanent community college for West Hawaii has been a long journey that actually began under the Ariyoshi administration, and four governors later, we have finally broken ground,” Sen. Malama Solomon wrote in an email. The senator was out of state for the groundbreaking ceremony.
West Hawaii is one of the last major Hawaii regions in the state without a permanent facility for higher education. Hawaii Community College and the university now offer programs in leased facilities in a shopping center in Kealakekua.
At the groundbreaking ceremony was University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood, John Morton, vice president for Community Colleges, HCC Chancellor Noreen Yamane, Governor Neil Abercrombie, Mayor Billy Kenoi, state Rep. Cindy Evans, Hawaii County Councilwoman Margaret Wille and other community leaders.
Palamanui LLC is a partnership between Charles R. Schwab and Hunt Companies, and has contributed financial support to help fund the development of Hawaii Community College’s future Palamanui campus.
Palamanui 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. They plan to build a mixed-use community on 725 acres adjacent to the campus to support the long-term campus needs.
A $25.5 million bid from F&H Construction has been accepted for construction of the first two phases of the beginning plan, with an estimated completion date in 2015. The first phase of construction will include 24,000 square feet of learning space of 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.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Kenoi told the audience that he was a product of community college and he has also taught there for nine semesters. He said that community college instructors represent “kindness and compassion.”
“It is an honor to be here on this special day,” the mayor said. “So many people gave to help this dream come true.”
Kenoi said the community is an important part of the project and that Palamanui is an “opportunity to open the door to dreams and a limitless future.”
He said Palamanui allows a chance for Hawaii Island children to dream.
“They should have the same opportunity and access to higher education,” he said.
Solomon said that she is grateful to the governor and other officials for “picking up the ball and running with it to get Palamanui actually moving,” and to the residents of West Hawaii “for not letting go of the dream.”
“… While I worked hard to help make this week’s groundbreaking occur, I sincerely believe it should just be the beginning,” Solomon said. “I believed then and now that the residents of West Hawaii need and deserve a four-year undergraduate curriculum, while also offering two-year certifications in specialized fields such as culinary arts.”
Solomon said that, as a political leader who has represented part of North Kona as well as North and South Kohala for more than 20 years and as a former chairwoman of the Committee on Higher Education for eight years in the State Senate, she thinks “the most underserved region in higher education in the state” deserves it.
Solomon said she believes the university board of regents and elected leaders should “pursue partnerships with other institutions of higher learning to establish graduate research degree options in areas such as the environmental and marine sciences.”
“This is why as chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee in the late ‘80’s we transferred 500 acres at Puako — the ‘aina that surrounds the Puako Boat Ramp – to the UH to facilitate attracting such educational partners,” she said. “We also should be thinking out of the box about research opportunities tied to our island’s unique geology, biology and heritage such as the study of endangered species and tropical plants for medicinal purposes.”