Frear Hall in center of wide array of student-funded construction
State taxpayers will foot some of the bill for construction at the University of Hawaii at Manoa residence halls, but students will pay most of the cost through higher dorm rates.
The new Frear Hall is the most visible sign of the construction boom, but it is only part of more than $132 million being spent to upgrade aging dorms.
So much construction is going on, the university hired a consultant, Construction Management & Development Inc., under a $2.5 million contract to manage it all.
After Frear Hall opens in August, the university will shut down two of the four Hale Aloha towers to begin a $40 million renovation of the high-rise dorms.
Over the next two years, the four Hale Aloha towers will get new windows, plumbing, air ducts and electrical wiring. The rooms, lobbies and bathrooms, where students will be able to have more privacy and lock the doors, will be remodeled.
In addition, the university is upgrading the cafeteria at Gateway House at an estimated cost of about $8 million to accommodate the increase in students living on campus.
The university is issuing $111 million in bonds to be paid back with student housing fees to cover much of the construction cost. Repaying the bonds is projected to cost about $7.3 million a year by 2011, compared with $2.1 million last year, when the renovations began.
The Board of Regents gave the UH-Manoa housing office the authority last year to increase housing fees up to 5 percent a year through 2013 to help pay for the construction costs.
There are no plans, so far, to increase housing fees more than the 5 percent a year, even after the newly renovated Hale Aloha dorms reopen, said UH-Manoa Housing Director Michael Kaptik.
To pay back the money, the university needs to have at least a 92 percent occupancy rate, UH-Manoa Vice Chancellor Francisco Hernandez told the regents last year.
Dorms are normally filled at the beginning of the semester, but the occupancy rate usually drops below 90 percent by the spring semester.
Last year the occupancy rate was about 91 percent during the full academic year.
Kaptik said he is hoping Frear will boost occupancy rates.
The new facility will also mean new marketing opportunities to fill the residence hall over the summer, Kaptik said. The housing office is creating new brochures and hopes to fill rooms at Frear and other residence halls with groups such as students attending sports camps on campus and conferees.