University’s sale of land helps fulfill its mission
University of Hawaii associate professor Amarjit Singh's op-ed statement ("Gathering Place"
, Star-Bulletin, March 24) about the university's sale of Kapolei lands clearly was prepared without a full understanding of the facts of the transaction; as such it was irresponsible and contained a number of misrepresentations that need to be corrected.
The truth is that the West Oahu transaction represents excellent value for Hawaii taxpayers. Our commitment to develop a new UH-West Oahu campus at Kapolei, and to develop it now, reflects the urgent need for more higher education capacity in Leeward Oahu. The university's "Second Decade" analysis of underserved regions around the state, which has been shared with regents and the executive and legislative branches, documents that the greatest need for additional UH facilities in the state is in the western part of Oahu, as a consequence of the explosive population growth there. Further, great care and thought have gone into the development of this campus to ensure the best interests of the university and its constituents are always at the forefront.
The university lands at Kapolei were gifted to the state from the Campbell Estate for the purpose of selling or leasing to generate revenue for the construction of a new campus. This campus development has languished for more than 31 years, and we believe it never would have gotten off the ground without the sale of these lands.
Singh's remarks appear to have been made without examining the full facts of the analyses and methodology that have governed this wholly transparent process during the past two years. The valuation of the Kapolei land was based on comparable land sales in the region and was done by one of the top appraisers in Honolulu. The Royal Kunia transaction, for example, involved 161 acres with a sale price of about $50 million, which approximates to $310,000 per acre. In contrast, the $100 million that the university will receive for 298 acres works out to $335,570.00 per acre.
While we are selling 298 acres to generate private revenue to support phase one construction of the campus, the remaining 1,193 acres of land -- 991 acres mauka of the freeway and another 202 acres makai of the freeway -- will remain in perpetuity for UH.
We also are designating a 53-acre university-owned parcel of the new campus, within the prime development corridor along the new North South Road and Farrington Highway, for commercial and retail development. The leases from this parcel will create a new income stream for UH-West Oahu, thus allowing the UH system to spend its funding elsewhere within the system.
Singh alleges that a full life cycle economic analysis has not been conducted, when, in fact, these studies -- and more -- have been done. We recently received a $100,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation for the design and development of an environmentally sustainable, energy-efficient facility. We also have mapped out the campus building master plan, which will govern the growth for the next 50 years. The future development of the campus will be funded primarily from tuition and lease rents from the commercial/retail site. This new campus development will be sustainable in both financial and environmental terms.
Essentially, this transaction allows UH to leverage the state's limited funds with private revenue derived from the sale of the university's assets. As such, the transaction allows UH to fulfill, in a timely fashion, its mission in providing higher education to all people of Hawaii. West Oahu has waited three decades for a full build-out of its campus; the time to turn promises into reality is at hand.