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UH-Manoa completes work on pair of residential towers

The new renovation of dorms spurs talk among the students of "positive changes"

By Travis Kaya

LAST UPDATED: 2:18 a.m. HST, Aug 6, 2010

University of Hawaii officials are hopeful that the renovation of two aging residential towers on the Manoa campus will help make incoming freshmen feel a little more at home this fall.

UH held a dedication ceremony outside the Hale Aloha dorm complex yesterday to celebrate the completion of a two-year renovation project on the towers. The dorm overhaul -- which shut down two towers for the past year -- will open up an additional 540 beds and provide upgraded facilities that the university hopes will help build community among incoming students.

"I'm happy with what we're providing for the students," said UH Student Housing Services Director Michael Kaptik. "We tried to take what people call a dorm and make it more of a home."

UH renovated four towers in two phases. The university shut down the Lehua and Lokelani towers over the past academic year to renovate bathrooms and lounges and upgrade the fire alarm system. Similar renovations on the other two towers in the complex -- Mokihana and Ilima -- were completed last August.

According to Kaptik, the renovations on all four towers cost $24.5 million, an estimated $1.5 million less than was allotted by the Legislature for the project in 2006. The university hopes to use any surplus funding toward planned upgrades at the Johnson Hall dormitory next year, Kaptik said.

With the completion of the final two dorm towers, 1,800 of the university's 4,000 beds are in new or renovated rooms. Kaptik said UH hopes to have 85 percent of its beds in renovated rooms within the next few years.

UH officials hope the dorms improvements will encourage students to enroll at Manoa, and enhance their educational experience once they arrive.

"It truly fits into making us a destination of choice," said UH Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. "The living quarters are certainly of a much better quality. ... for living and learning."

A number of UH student leaders -- many of whom had lived in the renovated dorms as underclassmen -- attended Thursday's dedication ceremony. The students were generally impressed with the upgrades and said it would help build community in the freshman halls.

"It creates a much more positive Manoa community," said Andrew Itsuno, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii. "A lot of students have been talking about the positive changes that have been happening."

Student leaders said they are excited to help incoming freshman move into the new dorms when they start arriving on Aug. 17. Classes start Aug. 23.

"A lot of people used to complain that the UH dorms were junk compared to the mainland," said resident adviser Jake Yonamine, who lived in the Lokelani tower before the renovations. "Now people will have pride in where they live. They will have a different outlook."

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