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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 3, 2001

UH outlines $700 million construction plan

 •  Details of UH development plan

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

The University of Hawai'i has proposed a $700 million capital improvement plan that would include a medical complex in Kaka'ako, a permanent West O'ahu campus in Kapolei's business area, and maintenance and construction projects on all 10 campuses.

UH President Evan Dobelle said that in addition to a facilities overhaul for the statewide system, the array of construction projects could begin over the next six months and keep the construction industry busy for the next five years.

UH will pursue $400 million of the $1 billion construction spending plan that Gov. Ben Cayetano has asked the Legislature to consider in its special session later this month. That would include $150 million for the West O'ahu campus, $88 million to UH-Hilo for a multi-purpose arena and $70 million for an addition to Kennedy Theater that would contain a film school.

The other $300 million would come from private fund-raising and tapping into the state's $1.2 billion tobacco settlement fund.

The tobacco money now goes into the state's rainy day fund, but UH wants to use $150 million of it to build a large biomedical complex in Kaka'ako that would include the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Cancer Research Center.

UH would also renovate the biomedical sciences building on the Manoa campus and work with Kamehameha Schools to hire a master planner for the Kaka'ako site. Kamehameha Schools owns much of the land in the area that university officials hope would eventually be used by private biomedical firms.

The university would have to raise $150 million in private matching money to help pay for the biomed park — a significant amount for a school with an endowment worth around $200 million.

UH officials have been meeting since mid-September to choose a location for the medical school and fit their campus long-range master plans into the governor's call to buoy the sagging economy by fast-tracking construction spending.

The governor met with the legislative leaders yesterday afternoon to discuss his construction spending plan. Legislators were already poking holes into the $1 billion proposal.

House Speaker Calvin Say said the state has already given UH $10 million for planning for the medical school. If it wants more than that, it will have to sell revenue bonds, he said.

"The House position has always been revenue bonds," Say said. "The medical school is $70 million in revenue bonds. If they want to use that, they can use that. I don't see any problem with revenue bonds."

A key component of the UH plan is that with its constitutional autonomy, it would be able to oversee the bidding process and award contracts itself instead of waiting for the Department of Accounting and General Services to do so.

"The university is in an exceptional position to make a difference in both the short and long term — and to make that difference today," Dobelle said.

If approved, the money would be the first major capital improvement spending at UH in years and reflect a major shift in the way the state looks at UH during economic downturns. The university suffered enormously during the state's economic crisis of the 1990s, losing $30 million in money from the state each year and watching its share of the state budget shrink from 13 or 14 percent down to 9 percent.

Lingering reminders of that budget crisis haunt the UH system: National rankings have slid and a $170 million maintenance backlog shows in peeling paint and some dingy buildings.

Now, UH is poised to offer tuition waivers to workers laid off after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to fast-track construction projects.

"There are difficulties in Hawai'i, but maybe the University of Hawai'i can be part of the answer," Dobelle said. "We are asking for consideration."

Officials say the medical school, in its Manoa building since the 1970s, needs new facilities to attract quality faculty and increase medical research at UH. The 200 acres of harborfront land that make up Kaka'ako-makai represent the crown jewel of public lands in urban Honolulu.

The Kaka'ako location had received the blessing of Cayetano, medical school dean Edwin Cadman and the Legislature, which granted UH millions of dollars to improve the waterfront site. However, UH officials this past summer studied nine other locations.

But a report released yesterday placed the Kaka'ako site at the top because of its location near hospitals and the capability to build on that land quickly.

• • •

UH's $700 million development plan includes:

• $300 million for a biomedical complex in Kaka'ako.

• $150 million for the creation of the UH-West O'ahu site in Kapolei's business section. The governor, Dobelle and representatives of the Campbell Estate have agreed on the site, near the new library.

• $88 million to UH-Hilo for a multipurpose arena for education, athletic events and community outreach; also, a science and technology center and an enhanced student services building.

• $70 million for an addition to Kennedy Theater to contain a systemwide

film school through the cooperation of the departments of theater and dance, information technology services, and information and communication sciences.

• $18 million to Kaua'i Community College for a student services, academic support and administrative complex.

• $11 million to renovate the student services building at Maui Community College.

• $8 million for infrastructure development in preparation for the UH Center at West Hawai'i.

• $55 million for system-wide repairs and maintenance, including $25 million at Manoa and $13 million at UH-Hilo.

Staff writer Kevin Dayton contributed to this report. Reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.