By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii Medical Service Association on Tuesday announced plans to build a new office building in Keaau.
Since opening its first Hawaii Island office in Hilo the same day as the deadly April Fool’s Day tsunami of 1946, HMSA has added two more offices — call centers that are not open to the public — on the Big Island, employing 45 people in total.
The new building will be able to accommodate up to 100 employees, according to HMSA spokeswoman Robyn Kuraoka.
“This is an investment in the health care infrastructure on Hawaii Island,” HMSA Chief Financial and Services Officer Steve Van Ribbink said via a press release.
The 20,000-square-foot complex will encompass new customer service, sales and call center operations. It is expected to be ready by the end of 2014. It will be located at the corner of Old Volcano and Keaau-Pahoa roads on two acres recently purchased for just over $1 million from W.H. Shipman Ltd.
Construction is slated to begin in August, although no contractor has been selected yet, Kuraoka said. All that sits on the site at the moment is an avocado tree.
HMSA first began working with Shipman three years ago in its search for land for a new building, said Shipman President Bill Walter.
“What we’re seeing are good quality jobs coming to Puna, which is important for Keaau and Puna,” he said.
Shipman has retained the front portion of the property to provide retail services in a single-story building or buildings that will total between 7,000 and 8,000 square feet, Walter said. Parking for both the HMSA office and future retail space will be accessible from both Old Volcano Road and the entrance to the Shipman gym.
“We’d like to get started on that early next year,” he said of the retail space. “We have tenants that have been interested in coming to Keaau town. Right now, we want to get a feel for what is coming into the town, and see what kind of activity is being generated right now.”
As for HMSA, it was seeking a location that would be “readily accessible and have the convenience of a small town,” Walter said.
The building’s design will be in the plantation style, with gabled roofs, ample overhang and breezeways.
“HMSA embraced our desire to have plantation-style buildings in the village,” Walter said. “They understand that what we’re trying to build here is something that will have a lasting and memorable character to it, something that will draw people in and create a destination. We see HMSA as a company that is going to contribute to building a family-oriented, health-oriented, and friendly, livable community.”
HMSA is a nonprofit founded in Hawaii in 1938. It is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
W.H. Shipman is a family-owned company with more than 16,000 acres of land and a 130-year history in Puna.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.