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UH-West Oahu campus finally gets under way

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    A rendering shows a walkway at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus in Kapolei.

Construction of the University of Hawaii-West Oahu’s permanent home in Kapolei kicked off this week, 44 years after the Legislature first allocated planning money for a second four-year UH campus on Oahu.

Forgive West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni for keeping his response low key, though.

He’s busy breathing a big sigh of relief.

"I’m excited, but I’m more relieved than happy at this point," he said. "It’s been a dream. It’s been a lot of people getting excited and their hopes get dashed and then getting excited and their hopes get dashed."

It’s been a decades-long effort to start up the West Oahu campus and to secure funding for a permanent site.

In 1966, legislators allocated $307,000 to begin planning what would become UH-West Oahu.

West Oahu College began in temporary headquarters 10 years later, with 75 students taking night courses at three high school sites.

In 1981 the college, later renamed, moved into portables adjacent to Leeward Community College, where it has operated since.

Last month, Gov. Linda Lingle released $48 million for the first phase of construction on the new campus, which will cost about $100 million and wrap up in spring 2012.

Another $48 million for the first phase will be secured through a revenue bond "issuance package," subject to approval of the UH Board of Regents, Awakuni said.

The first phase will include the construction of five buildings, including a two-story, 41,136-square-foot classroom building, a two-story, 41-798-square-foot lab building and a 183-stall parking lot.

The buildings were designed with environmental sustainability in mind and will be situated around a 3.9-acre "great lawn" that will serve as a gathering place for students.

Awakuni said classes on the new campus will start in fall 2012. The Phase 1 buildings will accommodate up to 3,700 students.

» Cost: About $100 million

» Project duration: August 2010 to spring 2012

» Scope: Five buildings for classrooms and labs, administration, a library and a student services center

» The campus will feature a 3.9-acre "great lawn" for students to gather and for commencement exercises.

» New buildings will incorporate "green design," including use of natural light and ventilation.

» Phase 1 buildings will be able to accommodate about 3,700 students — more than double the 1,500 students now enrolled at UH-West Oahu.

Source: University of Hawaii

UH-West Oahu has about 1,500 students and anticipates it will have about 2,000 in two years, when the new campus will open.

Plans are also under way to build a 250-bed residence hall, which is expected to open shortly after Phase 1 is wrapped up.

The second phase of construction will kick off about five years after the first phase is complete.

"We want to wrap up Phase 1, (then) pause and enjoy what we’ve achieved," Awakuni said.

The new campus is being seen as a major driver of future development in Kapolei. But not everyone is pleased with the project.

The UH-Manoa Faculty Senate has raised concerns about the cost of building the new campus at a time when backlogged repairs mount at the system’s flagship campus.

Martin Rayner, chairman of the UH-Manoa Faculty Senate, said faculty members are not necessarily against a new campus.

"It’s exciting to see the UH-West Oahu develop," he said. "The question is to how it should develop. What we would like to see is that it develops in a way which is thoroughly collaborative and cooperative with the rest of the system."


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