STAR-BULLETIN / AUGUST 2007
Administrators at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are hoping the state will fund new buildings to replace current structures, including $21.2 million to replace Klum Gym.
UH building boom comes at expense of upkeep
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The University of Hawaii system is in the midst of a more than $800 million new building boom even as the 10 campuses struggle with an estimated $352 million backlog of repairs and maintenance for existing buildings.
UH is finishing construction this summer on $121 million worth of projects, including the $71 million Frear Hall dorm.
Administrators are having to make tough decisions as they come up with their budgets and are having to choose between new buildings and fixing what has already been built.
"We own an SUV," said UH-Manoa official David Hafner, "but maybe we should be looking at buying a hybrid."
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As dance students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa rehearse pirouettes at their 40-year-old studio on the lower campus, the music is occasionally interrupted by foul balls from the nearby baseball and softball stadiums.
Balls have twice flown through the windows, hitting the opposite wall, but -- so far -- have missed students, said Gregg Lizenbery, the chairman of the UH-Manoa Dance & Theatre Department.
The floor in the building is weak in spots, Lizenbery said. "There are a couple of spaces where you go, 'Hmmm, we're not going to dance there. We're not going to stand there.'"
Plans have been in the works for years to replace the studio with a new performing arts center. But those plans are running up against the $242.8 million repair and maintenance backlog at UH-Manoa and $351 million backlog across all 10 campuses.
The cost of a new performing arts center, which also includes a parking structure, is estimated at $66.8 million, nearly double the $34.5 million appropriated to UH-Manoa for repair and maintenance projects this fiscal year.
As the university works on a budget to be presented to the Board of Regents this fall, UH President David McClain has asked all campuses to make fixing existing buildings a priority over new construction projects for the next two years.
But UH-Manoa and UH-Hilo administrators say several key construction projects, including the performing arts center/parking structure, should not be put on hold.
"Some things have gotten past the point of repair," UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said recently. "These are very intense needs. It's tough. We're running out of options."
For dance students, there is no question about the need to replace the studio.
"This has been a temporary building for 40 years or so," said Carolyn Wilt, a junior majoring in dance.
Other students said it is embarrassing that the dance department, which has an international reputation for its Asian and Pacific dance programs, has to use outdated facilities.
Besides the performing arts complex and parking structure, UH-Manoa is also hoping to get approval for a new $135 million classroom building; a $49.5 million College of Education building to replace 1940s-era wooden portables at the UH Lab School; $21.2 million to replace Klum Gym; and $25.7 million to expand the Biomedical Sciences building.
Other projects lower on the priority list, such as a $68.3 million expansion of the law school and a $61.3 million information technology building, likely will be delayed in favor of repairing older buildings and building higher-priority buildings.
Some projects that had been proposed have already fallen by the wayside, including a new campus for Hawaii Community College on 150 acres of state land above Komohana Street in Hilo.
The project would have been partially funded by private development, but the governor refused to release planning and design money, citing an estimated $150 million in state funds needed to complete the new campus.
"That opportunity has come and gone," said Hawaii Community College Chancellor Rockne Freitas.
The budget plan for his campus focuses on renovations to the current campus and to begin planning for expanded services on the west side of the island.
UH administrators are working this summer on a proposed budget for the next two years and a long-range budget over the next six years.
So far, the community colleges are not asking for new construction for the next two years, but UH-Manoa and UH-Hilo say they still need new buildings.
Among the projects UH-Hilo would like to see funded this fiscal year are $5.5 million to plan a $25-$50 million College of Pharmacy building and $20 million for the construction of a new Hawaiian Language and Cultural Center.
The two-year budget will be presented to the Board of Regents for approval this fall and then will go to the Governor's Office and the Legislature.
In an interview last month, Gov. Linda Lingle said she is open to new construction projects along with renovations.
She is calling for increased spending on repair, maintenance and construction as a way to stimulate Hawaii's slowing economy.
"It's a balancing test," Lingle said, noting that construction is an important part of the economy, and new construction can take several years from planning to completion.
UNIVERSITY FINISHES SOME PROJECTS AND AWAITS OTHERS
Here are some of the major construction projects being finished or planned by the University of Hawaii:
COMPLETED THIS SUMMER
Two 12-story dorm towers with 800 beds
Cost: $71 million (mostly funded with student housing fees)
Komohana Agricultural Complex Phase I
New wing and renovation of existing area
Cost: $15 million
UH-Hilo Student Life Center
New recreation facility and swimming pool
Cost: $21 million (mostly funded through increase in student fees)
Kauai Community College One Stop Center (Phase I)
Cost: $14 million
IN THE WORKS
UH-Hilo Science and Technology Building
Cost: $28.5 million
Kauai Community College One Stop Center (Phase II)
Cost: $9 million
UH-Manoa Campus Center Phase II
Renovation and addition
Cost: $44 million (mostly funded by an increase in student fees)
UH-Hilo Student Services Building Addition
Cost: $28.5 million
Regional Biocontainment Laboratory
Cost: $47.5 million (mostly funded with federal money)
UH-West Oahu Campus
Cost: $144 million (mostly funded by the sale of state land)
ON THE DRAWING BOARD
New classroom building
$7.9 million in planning money appropriated
Estimated cost: $135 million
UH Law School expansion
Estimated cost: $68.4 million
West Hawaii Education Center
$2 million appropriated
Estimated cost: $32 million
UH-Manoa Information Technology Center
$5 million appropriated
Estimated cost: $61.3 million
UH Performing Arts Facility and parking structure
$2 million appropriated
Estimated cost: $66.8 million
UH-Hilo Hawaiian Language Building Phase I
$2 million appropriated
Estimated cost: $21.9 million
Source: University of Hawaii system Office of Capital Improvements