CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
The new Frear Hall dormitory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa will be open for the fall semester.
New dorm is pride of UH
A school official says the $71 million facility is a "dramatic step in the right direction"
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Prompted by student complaints about old dorms falling apart, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is in the midst of a student housing reconstruction boom.
In a few weeks the new $71 million Frear Hall dorm will be completed and ready for occupancy this fall. It is part of more than $132 million in construction projects to fix dorms that are more than 30 years old.
Students will pay most of the construction costs through higher dorm fees.
But university officials hope revitalized student housing will be an important step in making UH-Manoa more of a community, rather than a commuter campus.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
The Dole Street facade of the new Frear Hall stands at the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. The new dormitory will be opening for the fall semester.
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With air conditioning, two student lounges with pool tables and wall-mounted flat-screen televisions, and a storage area for bicycles and surfboards, the new Frear Hall has amenities not envisioned when the last University of Hawaii at Manoa dorm was built more than 30 years ago.
New digs and amenities
To be completed this summer:
» Construction management contract
Cost: $2.5 million
» Frear Hall
Cost: $71 million
» Gateway Cafeteria
Cost: $8 million
» Hale Aloha new flooring
The $71 million dorm is part of more than $132 million in construction projects scheduled over the next three years to rehabilitate aging student housing at UH-Manoa.
"It's clearly an important, dramatic step in the right direction," said Alan Yang, UH-Manoa associate vice chancellor for students.
The original Frear Hall was built in the 1950s. It was shut down in 1997 because of its age and torn down in 2006 to make room for the new 11-story, 810-bed facility.
Housing administrators hope that when Frear is finished in July, it will be a major step toward changing UH-Manoa from a commuter campus into a true community.
"Student housing is more than a head on a bed," said UH-Manoa Housing Director Mike Kaptik.
The addition of Frear will enable the housing office to start new programs, administrators said.
Frear will have a Japanese-language floor, where students taking Japanese will live and study together. The housing office is also working on creating a Hawaiian-language floor.
Freshmen interesting in an education career are also being given a chance to live together in other dorms, Yang said.
Kaptik said the university is hoping to "bridge the gap" between the campus and the residential community across Dole Street.
Yang noted that the improvements in student housing will coincide with a planned $44 million expansion and renovation of the Campus Center.
The expanded facility will feature an indoor jogging track and fitness center and should provide students with things to do at night on campus, Yang said.
The construction costs will be paid for with an increase in student fees. The project was supported by the UH-Manoa student government.
The dorm improvements and the Campus Center addition will be finished at about the time when the number of "traditional college students" -- graduating high school seniors -- begins to decline over the next decade.
» Hale Noelani walkway replacement
Cost: $2.7 million Finished: spring
» Hale Aloha renovations
Estimated cost: $40 million Start date: fall
» Electronic card access system
Estimated cost: $1.53 million Start date: fall
» Hale Wainani elevator modernization/ transformer replacement
Estimated cost: $4.2 million Start date: summer 2009
» Hale Kahawai/Hale Laulima roof replacement
Estimated cost: $896,000 Start date: summer 2009
» Johnson Hall fire alarm and sprinkler system
Estimated cost: $1.15 million Start date: summer 2009
Improved facilities are part of what is needed to attract students to Manoa, Yang said.
Yang said housing officials are working on a master plan to determine what will happen to student housing in the future, including whether the university can offer graduate-student housing or married-student housing.
But any changes in the mix of student housing need to be weighed against the effect on revenue needed to pay back the $111 million in bonds used for Frear's construction and other improvements at the dorms, Kaptik said.
A major decision facing the housing office is whether to tear down Johnson Hall and replace it with another new dorm, as recommended by university consultants.
However, Kaptik said the university needs to see what the demand is for Frear and for student housing in general before considering whether to build another new dorm.
Even with the addition of Frear, the university still had a waiting list of about 400 students in June.
Most of those on the waiting list missed the housing deadline, Kaptik said. He said everyone who applied on time will get housing and that the waiting list is expected to dwindle by the time school begins.
For those assigned to Frear, living in relative luxury will not come cheap.
At $5,186 for the nine-month academic year, the cost of a shared room at the new Frear Hall dorm is 48 percent higher than the $3,497 price of the cheapest shared room at Johnson Hall.
Frear also has private one-bedroom apartments that cost $8,717 per academic year.
When it opens, Frear will not house freshmen, and alcohol will be allowed, Kaptik said.
For the most part, students living in the dorms this summer applaud the housing upgrades.
"They (the dorms) are in dire need of repairs," said Lisa Asano, who will be a senior this fall.
Asano, who will be living with friends in the Noelani Apartments, said she did not apply to Frear.
"It's really expensive," she said, "but they get air conditioning."