Planned $15 million Kohala health clinic gets architect

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Hāmākua-Kohala Health Teaching Center will be located on the five-acre former site of the Kohala Club Hotel. Photo Courtesy: WhiteSpace Architects

An architectural firm has been selected to design the new, $15 million health clinic planned for Kohala on the north end of Hawai‘i Island.

WhiteSpace Architects is planning to break ground on the 24,000-square-foot Hāmākua-Kohala Health Rural Health, Wellness and Teaching Center in mid-2024. The new facility plans to welcome its first patients the following year.

Hāmākua-Kohala Health Teaching Center will be located on the five-acre former site of the Kohala Club Hotel – a traditional community gathering spot – between Hāwī and Kapa‘au.

The facility will provide primary and preventive care to people of all ages and will serve as a comprehensive home to a patient’s primary-care practitioner and medical specialists, family dentist, in-house pharmacy and even care coordinators for added support. Pediatric and behavioral health wings will provide specialized services.


It will also incorporate a traditional cultural healing center that will offer lomi lomi, ho‘oponopono and la‘au lapa‘au, as well as other culturally appropriate practices for healthy minds and bodies.

Hāmākua-Kohala Health Teaching Center will serve as a teaching and educational facility for doctors, nurses, medical assistants, dentists and pharmacists. It will offer residency opportunities for medical residents, allowing local students the opportunity to remain in the North Hawai‘i community for training and careers.

Project architect Laurel Swan. Photo Courtesy: WhiteSpace Architects

The need for health services is already great in North Hawai‘i and only growing; Hāmākua-Kohala Health’s patient community doubled from 5,000 to more than 10,000 in recent years.

“Healthcare resources in North Hawai‘i have been stretched thin for too long, and the new center will help provide greater access to care for people across the entire region,” said Irene Carpenter, CEO of Hāmākua-Kohala Health.


Carpenter noted the longstanding shortage of medical professionals in Hawai‘i, particularly in rural areas on the Neighbor Islands. She continued, “This new facility will be a teaching center to provide jobs in our local community from medical assistants to medical doctors.”

Hāmākua-Kohala Health currently operates out of a small leased structure near the Kohala Hospital in Kapa‘au; from there, it provides primary, dental and behavioral health services.

The WhiteSpace design will feature a classic Hawaiiana, plantation-era aesthetic to match the rural character of the region.

Two of three existing Kohala Club Hotel buildings will be demolished; while conversion was considered by Hāmākua-Kohala Health, the two buildings were determined to be in such poor condition that restoration would be impractical. The remaining two-story building will likely be converted into student housing in a future phase.


To ensure continuity of care during the phased project, Phase One will allow Hāmākua-Kohala Health to vacate the current leased Kapa‘au location with no interruption in care.

“As with all of our work, the new design responds to what Hāmākua-Kohala Health needs now, yet also looks ahead to the future,” said North Kohala resident and project architect Laurel Swan of WhiteSpace Architects.

In a future phase of the project, a separate 6,000-square-foot residential building will be constructed.

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