UH-West Oahu plan gets OK
Development would include the campus and nearby housing
The Board of Regents approved yesterday an updated long-range plan for a new University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus as a centerpiece for new residential and commercial developments in East Kapolei that could ultimately serve 7,600 students.
Construction of the new campus would be financed in part by a private-public partnership and the development of about 4,040 residences around the campus, including 760 units for student housing.
"It (UH-West Oahu) will become the center of Kapolei," said UH-West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni.
Micah Kane, chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, told regents that the project is crucial to the department's plans to provide 1,800 home sites in East Kapolei.
Hawaiian Homes is looking to UH to participate in building infrastructure like roads, sewer, water and electricity and to provide jobs, educational opportunities and a community identity.
The first phase of the project includes four buildings that would support a campus of about 1,520 students and the development of 616 residential units to be completed in 2009. Full development of a 500-acre parcel of state land next to the Kapolei Golf Course would be completed by 2015.
Currently, UH-West Oahu occupies about 29 portables on 30,000 square feet of space next to Leeward Community College and serves about 858 students.
The new campus would eventually occupy about 214 acres of land, and 287 acres would be developed for residential and commercial use.
Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board, said she remembers lobbying for the UH-West Oahu campus when her children were growing up 20 years ago.
Now, she said, her children have children and there is still no campus.
"I know a higher-education element is vital to the success of our healthy new community," she said.
But the UH faculty union sounded a note of caution about too much expansion at the university.
J.N. Musto, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly executive director, noted the board was being asked to approve spending $1.7 million for the new pharmacy school at UH-Hilo, and the Legislature and the board will be asked to fund $1.4 million in more faculty positions next year. The medical school and UH-West Oahu will also incur new ongoing costs, Musto noted.
If the economy turns, Musto wondered if the board and the university might have to make tough choices in the future on whether to cut programs.
UH-West Oahu will require about $30 million in construction bonds to build water, sewer, electricity and other infrastructure. The school also will have to go to the Legislature for more money eventually for new faculty and administrative positions.
Awakuni said rents from some of the commercial development next to the campus and increased tuition revenues will help pay for some campus maintenance and operation. He acknowledged additional state money will be required.
"The need on the west side of Oahu (for higher education) is huge," Awakuni said. "If we are providing access and increasing the ability of students to get a college education, why should we not get some state support?"