Plans are under way to build an 800-bed complex by 2008 where Frear Hall stands now
Students now living in run-down dorms at the University of Hawaii at Manoa say the construction of the first new campus housing complex in 30 years can't happen soon enough.
"Finally," said dorm resident Miriam Barillas.
COURTESY OF AMERICAN
2-Bedroom/ 1-Bath Unit
Each private room includes:
» Twin bed.
» Desk with chair.
» Drawers underneath the bed.
» Microfridge (half refrigerator and half microwave oven).
» Bookcase (not shown in rendering).
» Six-foot closet.
» Entertainment center.
» Vanity and sink.
» Medicine cabinet.
» Phone, cable television and data ports.
» Semiprivate bathroom with shower and toilet.
"They should have started a long time ago," said Chris Alensna. "There's so many people trying to get into the dorms."
The new dorm project took a step forward last week with the signing of an agreement to look into the feasibility and initial design of an 800-bed high-rise complex at the current Frear Hall site on Dole Street.
Current freshmen, who will be seniors when the new dorm rooms are ready for occupancy in fall 2008, said the university also needs to look at repairing existing dorms.
"I think they should fix first the ones they have now before they think about building new ones," Barillas said.
Jan Yokota, UH director of capital improvements, said the university is working on a master plan to build an additional 2,000 dorm beds and renovate the existing 3,000 beds.
"You can do both things," Yokota said. However, she added, "all of this requires quite a bit of money."
Interim UH-Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan and interim UH President David McClain signed the agreement for the new dorms last week with American Campus Communities, a publicly traded real estate investment trust based in Austin, Texas.
The company and its partners were selected in July to develop the dorm in a public-private partnership with the university.
"We hope this will be something that benefits the university long term," said Jason Willis, a senior vice president of American Campus Communities. "We feel the demand is so high in this marketplace that we're trying to get as many beds online as soon as possible."
The university had hoped for the new dorms to be ready by the spring of 2007. But Yokota said that was always an "ambitious goal." She said the fall 2008 deadline is more "realistic."
Willis said the company hopes to complete its feasibility study next month and begin negotiations with the university on the design concept, and to put the financing together to start construction.
The project will likely be paid for through bonds issued by the university and repaid through student housing fees.
In June, Gov. Linda Lingle signed legislation allowing the university to issue up to $100 million in revenue bonds to pay for new housing. The revenue bonds would be paid back through increased housing fees.
The Legislature also appropriated $25 million in taxpayer-financed bonds to pay for the Frear Hall project, which could lower costs for students. Lingle has yet to release the money, however.
Construction costs for the new building are still being figured out, but the university estimated earlier this year that it would take about $34 million to build a 400-bed dorm complex on the Frear site.
UH is hoping to keep costs for students who want to live in the new dorm to between $5,220 and $8,130 per academic year. Current housing fees range from $2,817 to $5,427 per academic year.
According to a UH study, nearby off-campus housing costs range from $430 a month to $1,050 a month for studios and one-bedroom apartments.
Wills said the company has been working with student focus groups to see what students want in the new housing.
About half of the units will be private rooms. Other features incorporated in the design will use tradewinds to help cool the building, possibly solar panels and energy-efficient fixtures and appliances to reduce the cost of operating the new dorm.
The initial feasibility and design study is being financed by American Campus Communities. If the university decides not to go forward, UH has the right to buy ACC's work but is not obligated to do so, Wills said.
"That's one of the benefits of privatization. We are willing to spend money on behalf of the university," he said.
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An artist's rendering shows proposed dorms near the UH-Manoa Campus Center and a pedestrian mall at Varney Circle.
1994 master plan still far from reality
The successful completion of the new dorm at Frear Hall could lead to more new student housing construction, including a new 300-bed dorm next to the Campus Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The idea for a dorm near the Campus Center comes from the university's 1994 master plan, which also calls for expanding the student center and turning Varney Circle in front of Hawaii Hall into a pedestrian mall.
Plans call for building a new 400-bed dorm where Johnson Hall is located and a new 600-bed resident hall where Hale Noelani sits.
The university is also looking at renovating the International Gateway House and other dorms and apartments.
The university's contract with American Campus Communities for the Frear Hall redevelopment could open the door for the company to participate in those projects and possibly a contract to manage student housing projects on campus.
However, Jan Yokota, UH director of capital improvements, notes that there "is no commitment whatsoever" that ACC would be part of future student housing developments.