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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 6, 2006

Rising costs dog YMCA expansion

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

A grand opening for the $6.3 million Kalihi YMCA is expected in April. It is the first project in the YMCA of Honolulu's $30 million plan for improving its facilities islandwide.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Along with this spacious meeting room, key features of the Kalihi YMCA include new exercise equipment, a kitchen and a teen center. The building also serves as a base for youth-outreach programs.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Theresa Quinores, left, and Maxine Yoro of Kalihi try out the treadmills at the Kalihi YMCA. About 100 adults have joined in recent weeks.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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It took longer and cost a lot more than expected, but the new $6.3 million Kalihi YMCA building is up and running, with the official grand opening expected in April.

The gleaming four-story, 23,000-square-foot facility next to the Kalihi-Palama Public Library has all new exercise equipment and computers, a teen center, a kitchen and meeting space, and is the home of the YMCA's youth outreach programs on O'ahu.

The YMCA of Honolulu is a nonprofit association that serves more than 96,000 children, teens and adults at nine branches on O'ahu.

The Kalihi project is the first in a $30 million effort to improve YMCA facilities islandwide. When construction started two years ago, the cost of the Kalihi Street center was estimated at $4.5 million, but rising material costs and the competitive market for contractors has made capital improvement projects much more expensive, thus the $6.3 million price.

"When the price of the building is going up faster than you can raise the money, it is a little discouraging sometimes," said Don Anderson, past YMCA president and now a volunteer with the organization. "The construction inflation has just been incredible."

The YMCA's second improvement project, a new facility in Waipahu, was expected to cost $8 million, but that price grew by two-thirds.

"The original bids for construction costs started out at $8 million, then it went to $12 million," said Larry Bush, YMCA president. "To stop the bleeding, we've signed a contract for $13.5 million. It's locked in now."

Bush said a shortage of labor, the expansion of military construction projects, and escalating costs of materials and shipping have contributed to the inflated costs.

"The disasters around the world have had an effect on (the availability) of materials," Bush said. "Everybody doing construction is seeing that."

Bush said despite the cost, the YMCA is moving forward with its plans to expand services on the island. As one project is being built, plans for the next are being developed. "Every so often, you have to build new buildings and move to communities that you aren't serving," Bush said.

After the Waipahu project, a facility in Wai'anae is planned, followed by expansions of the Central and Kailua YMCAs.

"I don't think we will ever be able to stop," Bush said. "It's finishing (construction on) one before starting another one, but always having them all on the table and continuing to work toward the ultimate completion of all of them."

The Kalihi Y, which opened in 1946, had not had adult members, but about 100 adults have joined after seeing the new building.

Dave Mielke, 62, said he saw the new Kalihi YMCA while driving by and stopped in to check out the facility. The retired Salt Lake resident joined two weeks ago and uses the weight room and the cardio room.

"I decided to try and tone myself up," Mielke said.

In 1962, Kalihi YMCA's first outreach program began to work with gang members in Honolulu. Over time, it has added adolescent substance-abuse programs funded by the Family Court, the Office of Youth Services and the state Department of Health.

Tony Pfaltzgraff, co-executive director of the Kalihi Y, said his program's primary activities now are school-based substance-abuse treatment programs, which are provided at 14 high schools across the island. There also are summer fun and A-plus Programs for younger children.

"Our success as a YMCA branch was really because we had such modest facilities," Pfaltzgraff said. "We had to go out and create relationships in the community. It really forces us to do what people in human services need to do, which is be in the community.

"We have an incredible building here, but the commitment of the staff is to continue to do the community work we have always done."

Kalihi Y manages 70 full-time staff members in its outreach programs, many in satellite offices. Last year, the staff worked with 2,700 teens on O'ahu, about 1,000 in school-based substance-abuse programs.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com.