Cancer center hinges on Kakaako lease
A $500,000 National Cancer Institute grant is at stake in a rush to get a lease agreement approved for a new Cancer Research Center next to the medical school in Kakaako.
Anthony Ching, executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, said he expects to have a lease agreement ready for a meeting of the authority next month. It is also expected to be on the UH Board of Regents' agenda at a July 31 meeting.
"I'm happy, of course, that it's moving forward," said Dr. Carl-Wilhelm Vogel, director of the Cancer Research Center, one of 63 designated by the NCI for upport grants nationally. "It is overdue." He said he is concerned about the possible loss of a $500,000 NCI grant given to the center five years ago for the architectural planning of a new facility. It could not be used because a ground lease was not in place, and it is due to expire Aug. 31, he said.
Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena), who has been tracking the project, said she has been assured by HCDA and University of Hawaii officials that "there are ways to encumber the money because they're going to do this in time."
"I believe they are working diligently to get that done," she said.
Vogel said that after arriving here in 1999 one of his first tasks was to find more space for the growing research program, housed in cramped quarters at 1236 Lauhala St., near the Honolulu Medical Group on Beretania Street. He has pushed for a comprehensive new research center with a clinical facility offering new drugs and therapies to patients.
A development team was selected in 2005 for the new cancer research center, and the Legislature allocated part of an increased cigarette tax for the center in 2006.
But Gary Ostrander, UH vice chancellor for research and graduate education, and Ching said numerous challenges had to be solved before going ahead with the development, including ceded-land, parking and funding issues. Ostrander said he would "really like to get a hole in the ground before the end of the calendar year or certainly the first quarter of next year. There is money to go ahead but not necessarily enough to complete it," he added.
New cost estimates for the facility are not available, but they are expected to be considerably higher than the last projected cost of $200 million in 2004.
The new cancer center will be located on a 5.5-acre site Ewa of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. The medical school is not on ceded land, but the cancer center and clinical facility would be, Ostrander said.
Because of that, Ching said, "We have a public-trust responsibility not to take token rent." A mechanism is included in the lease in the event of any for-profit activities, he said. "Otherwise it will be a nominal rent."
There was some opposition to a clinical cancer facility in Kakaako, which had to be addressed, Ostrander said. And when Virginia Hinshaw arrived in March 2007 to be the new Manoa chancellor, she raised questions about making the Cancer Research Center part of the medical school.
"It was absolutely appropriate for the chancellor to ask that question and consider the option," Ostrander said, noting the national trend is for combined medical/cancer facilities. It was considered, and a decision was made not to merge them, he said.
Ching said he is talking to UH about off-site parking needs, and he is looking to develop a regional parking structure for UH research facilities and others in the area, as well as Kakaako Waterfront Park visitors.
Ching said he will seek legislative authorization and funding for improvements to the entrance to Fort Armstrong on Forest Avenue, the major gateway to the makai area. HCDA controls about 600 acres in the area.