UH-West Oahu gets crucial zoning change


POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Groundbreaking for a new University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus is scheduled for Jan. 14 after the City Council approved a zoning change yesterday that will allow the Kapolei facility to be built.

“;This is historic,”; said UH-West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni. “;We hope to start the next chapter, which would be construction of the campus. This has been a dream that has been held by many for 30 years.”;

However, there are still major obstacles to completing the campus - the most significant being money.

This summer, the Hunt Cos. pulled out of a $100 million deal to buy land around the campus for housing and commercial development, in part because of the nation's credit crisis.

That money was supposed to finance the construction of the campus.

Awakuni said the university plans to sell 55 acres of land, now zoned for commercial and retail use, next to the campus along the North South Road.

That should raise about $40 million, Awakuni said.

“;Commercial/retail property in Kapolei has held its value, unlike housing,”; Awakuni said. “;There still is demand now that the North South Road is going to open in about a year.”;

The $40 million, plus another $35 million, is enough to put in the infrastructure for roads, water, sewer and electricity, he said.

To actually construct the buildings, Awakuni said the university could issue bonds to be paid back with other commercial leases, or the university might consider selling other parcels.

“;Clearly, there's a gap between what we need and what we have in terms of financing,”; Awakuni said.

He said the university's budget request is already in the Governor's Office, and it does not include money to help build the campus.

Construction money “;is something that we'll have to continue to work on, but this was a major part of the puzzle,”; said City Councilman Todd Apo, who represents the district where the campus will be built.

Apo and seven other councilmembers voted to change the zoning of 500 acres of state land from agricultural to housing and commercial use. The zoning change follows months of negotiation between the city administration and UH-West Oahu over the location of a transit facility and other issues.

Star-Bulletin reporter Laurie Au contributed to this report.