The land slated for a university village around Hawaii Community College — Palamanui has changed hands, but development of the massive project isn’t expected to change much under new ownership. The entrance off Queen Kaahumanu Highway is seen Friday. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
The land slated for a university village around Hawaii Community College — Palamanui has changed hands, but development of the massive project isn’t expected to change much under new ownership.
Owner Hunt Companies Inc. in April sold the property to SMC Kona LLC, a company affiliated with the state’s largest locally owned and operated general contractor Nan Inc. The sale price of $15 million is less than half the price the property last cost, when it sold for $33.3 million in 2007, according to county tax records.
The 720-acre parcel adjacent to the community college is anticipated to include 1,116 residential units, a 30-acre university village town center with a 120-room hotel, retail shopping, commercial amenities, a 70-acre business park, a regional public park, 1,230 acres of open space and 74-acre dry forest reserve. Build-out is expected to take 20 years.
The project has undergone the rezoning process, and has secured entitlements to move it along, records show.
“Nan Inc and owner Patrick Shin is going to continue it,” Roger Harris, former director of governmental affairs for Palamanui, said Thursday. “They’re working on it and they’ll keep it going.”
He said the developers are currently working on repairs to a water well for the property. Messages left with Nan Inc. were not returned by press-time Thursday.
The land transfer caught the eye of Kailua-Kona resident Aaron Stene, who pays close attention to road construction and traffic impacts and has been tracking the project’s path through its bureaucratic hurdles. He relayed the sale information to the state Land Use Commission, the county Planning Department and Hawaii Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas.
“Hunt recently went through a zoning condition amendment process with Hawaii County about two years ago. Hunt also had grandiose plans to build around the Palamanui college campus,” Stene said in his email to the Land Use Commission. “I’m curious if Nan has notified the LUC of what their intentions are with this property.”
Solemsaas said Thursday she is reaching out to the company to inquire about their plans.
The County Council early last year granted additional concessions to developers, who, in return, sweetened the pot by promising an outdoor performing arts amphitheater and affordable housing that’s more affordable.
Instead of a five-year deadline to commence substantial construction, the zoning ordinance now requires construction to be completed in 20 years. Instead of a 20-acre active regional park, the park has been downsized to 10 acres of active park space and 10 acres of passive open spaces. That marked the second time the development agreement was modified since the 2006 rezoning of the property.
The development is supported by the University of Hawaii System, President David Lassner said in a Feb. 2, 2021, testimony to the council. He noted the developer has kept its promises and provided the campus financial support for the design and construction of its first building, constructed the road from Kaiminani Drive to the campus and brought the necessary electrical and water infrastructure to the campus. The campus opened in 2015.
“The University of Hawaii would warmly welcome the adjacent development of a ‘University Village’ to create a real community around our Hawaii Community College at Palamanui campus,” Lassner said in testimony. “The medium- and long-term expansion of residences, business, entertainment and recreation around the campus will encourage and facilitate growth of higher education opportunity for the people of West Hawaii.”