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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

College Hill renovations at $880,527 and counting

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

Renovations to College Hill, the home of the president of the University of Hawai'i, have reached $880,527 so far, according to documents released yesterday by UH.

The construction contracts indicate the house has been virtually rebuilt from the inside out — and at an apparently ever-increasing cost— with everything from a new roof and air-conditioning system to more than $6,500 in new electrical outlets chosen for better coordination with the new interior paint.

An additional $112,000 was budgeted by the UH Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the university, to furnish the house.

So far, furniture costs have totaled $83,600 for the main house and $19,900 for the guest cottage. The foundation also paid for a $71,227 renovation to UH President Evan Dobelle's office at Bachman Hall, according to a UH memo in July.

The extensive renovations to College Hill have been estimated to reach $1 million by the time the work is complete.

Dobelle has said he has had little input into the renovation of the home, which he said was spearheaded by university officials and begun before his term at UH started.

But his wife, Kit Dobelle, has approved nearly every aspect of the work done and requested many changes to the interior, according to dozens of memos and documents.

UH officials said at the beginning of summer, before the work started, that the total renovation cost would be about $172,000 — the price of the contract for just the main house. But the cost of the work quickly spiraled.

Landscape lighting cost an estimated $190,000. A new roof was $92,342.79. Cleaning the exterior of the windows cost $1,037.33. Replacing all the window screens was $7,603.84; new light switches, receptacles and faceplates cost $4,525.11. New light fixtures with ceiling fans for the lanai were $3,212.51.

The work started in July when former UH President Kenneth Mortimer retired and moved to Washington. While the renovation began, Dobelle and his family lived for two months in a Waikiki condo donated for their use to the University of Hawai'i Foundation. They moved into the home in September.

In the one-bedroom guest cottage, it cost $2,077.18 to replace all of the light switches and faceplates with an ivory color that better matched the new paint. The new solid hemlock front door and hardware cost $2,024. Windows cost $9,581.74.

A request from the Dobelle family to replace and relocate the light fixtures at the entry, in the kitchen and over the dining room table cost $2,016.

The original contract with Projects Plus Inc. for work on the cottage started at $156,000, but grew to $195,599.90 after all of the modifications. A separate contract to Pacific Architects Inc. for general repair work on the guest cottage was $25,767.

College Hill was built in 1902 and renovated in 1964, the same year it was given to the university by the Atherton family as a home for the school's president.

Things such as decorations, carpeting and drapery have changed with each UH president, but structural work had not been done in years.

Dobelle has said he will seek private donations to repay the university for the cost of the renovations and work to establish an endowment for College Hill.

Reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.