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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 17, 2001

College Hill renovation cost may reach $1 million

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

Extensive renovations to College Hill, the traditional home of the University of Hawai'i president, could reach as high as $1 million by the time the work is complete.

College Hill was built in 1902 and renovated in 1964, when the home was given to the University of Hawai'i by the Atherton family for use by the school's president.

Advertiser library photo • 1985

UH officials said at the beginning of summer, before the work started, that the cost would be about $172,000. Later they said the price would top $300,000, but now estimate that it could be more than three times that amount.

A more complete estimate will not be available until early November, officials said.

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

Dobelle said he plans to raise private money to pay for refurbishing and maintaining College Hill.

"I felt an obligation to try to raise private funds for the home," Dobelle said. "A historic home like that should really have an endowment. It hasn't been maintained very well."

The house 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 has not been done on the house in years.

Renovation started with a giant termite tent covering the historic home and includes new air-conditioning, paint, electrical work, plumbing, reroofing and new lighting.

Extensive carpentry work was done to repair termite damage, along with repairs to the guest cottage and a greenhouse.

Most of the work is complete, but the driveway and parking lot, which has space for about 20 cars, will be repaved.

"I've had very little to do with it other than to say, if you're going to do it do it right, and do it before I move in," Dobelle said. "I wanted to be insulated from it. It's a building of the university."

Dobelle said his only input into the renovation was to request improved handicapped access and ask that the work respect the historical integrity of the home. He also said that private money would also pay for any decorations.

Any interior additions, such as drapes, flooring or furniture, that are in the downstairs public areas of the home will be paid for by the UH Foundation. The Dobelle family lives upstairs.

UH presidents have lived in College Hill since the 1960s and used it several times a week for receptions and dinners.

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