University of the Nations Kona looking to expand: Updated master plan proposes 62-acre addition

  • University of the Nations’ environmental impact statement preparation notice includes this map outlining pieces in each of the three phases of construction. (Courtesy photo/West Hawaii Today)

  • The entrance to University of the Nations on Kuakini Highway is active as people leave the campus on Friday afternoon (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

The University of the Nations Kona may soon be more than doubling in size.

Submitted in the March 8 edition of the state’s Office of Environmental Quality Control’s The Environmental Notice, the organization has prepared an environmental impact statement preparation notice, outlining a multi-decade master plan for expansion. Plans for the three-phase, 62-acre expansion include the construction of a K-12 school, adding 17 student resident dorms, an athletic complex, new chapel and more.


The organization cited increasing enrollment projections as the need for expansion. Currently, UofN Kona has approximately 840 students enrolled along with 252 full-time staff. They anticipate a jump to 1,500 students and 450 staff in the coming 5-10 years, increasing to a projected 3,000 students and 900 staff by the completion of phase 3.

“We set a series of internal goals based on what we believe is God’s leading for how we, as a Christian university, would continue to grow,” said UofN Kona spokesperson Johnny Gillespie. “All of those projections of student numbers are based on what we believe is where we’re meant to go.”

Phase 1’s expansion — limited to 12 of the 62 acres — would include the construction of an elementary school, chapel, athletic training complex, two dorms and an agricultural exhibit instruction building along with infrastructure improvements including parking and pathways.

The first phase would also implement a preservation plan for the four identified burial sites on the property. A 2003 burial treatment plan provided an outline for the process.

“The preservation plan includes implementation of permanent rock wall buffers around each of the four identified burial sites on the Petition Area. The installation of the rock walls will create a permanent preservation buffer for the identified burial sites.”

As the project is still in its preliminary stages, the start of construction on Phase 1 isn’t imminent. There are still several steps, including the drafting and submission of an environmental impact statement, which would then need approval by the state’s Land Use Commission.


The plan’s timeline expects Phase 2 of the expansion to begin beyond 10 years, followed by Phase 3 beyond 20 years.

The project is currently open for a 30-day public review; all comments are due by April 7. A virtual EIS Public Scoping meeting will be held on Zoom on March 25 at 6 p.m. Those interested in attending can connect to the meeting from the March 8 OEQC Environmental Notice:

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