Plans to build a $50 million center on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus to honor the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye have been shelved indefinitely, in part because the school’s growing repair and maintenance backlog is hampering the university’s ability to secure public funds for new projects.
Lawmakers have been critical of the university for pursuing new projects and initiatives when its backlog of repairs stands at $503 million, with most of the work needed on the aging Manoa campus.
“We would never want to be seen as in competition for state funds that the university has been trying to secure for its repair and maintenance on the campus.”
Director, Daniel K. Inouye Institute
“Basically, because of the severe repair and maintenance backlog at the University of Hawaii, and in particular on the Manoa campus, the family and DKI Institute decided to step back rather than continue to pursue any new building on the campus,” Jennifer Sabas, the late senator’s longtime chief of staff and now director of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“We would never want to be seen as in competition for state funds that the university has been trying to secure for its repair and maintenance on the campus,” Sabas said, adding that there are no plans to seek an alternative site and no timeline on when the project could resume.
Supporters had proposed a center to advance public-service leadership, democratic ideals and global awareness through research fellows, K-12 educational events, exhibits, public lectures and other programs.
“At present we are really more focused on the programs — scholarships or leadership programs, lectures — that have a more direct impact on students. That’s where we’re investing our private dollars,” Sabas said.
At a legislative budget briefing earlier this week, UH President David Lassner told members of the state House and Senate money committees that a decision was made to forgo $12.5 million in the state’s capital improvements program, or CIP, budget for the project, known as the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Democratic Leadership. The funds — which were scheduled to lapse June 30 — included $10 million in state-backed bonds, $1.5 million in revolving funds and $1 million in private contributions.
“We did not have adequate funds to construct the Daniel K. Inouye building,” Lassner told lawmakers when asked why the funding was allowed to lapse early. “(The Legislature’s) appropriation was a small portion of what was required, and as a result of not getting other public or other private funds, we could not proceed with the amount of money that we had.”
Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the Higher Education Committee, said he wasn’t kept in the loop.
“I was really surprised because nobody told us that they were going to lapse that money,” Taniguchi said in an interview. “For legislators, we fight tooth and nail to get stuff in the budget, in the CIP budget, especially. To kind of give up early on that, where, I think, generally, legislators wanted to support it …”
Not long after Inouye’s death in December 2012, UH leaders solicited proposals for a $16 million to $20 million library to house Inouye’s congressional papers on the Manoa campus. But the project quickly came under fire not only for the speed with which UH was pursuing it, but also for the hefty price tag.
UH at the time agreed to back off on the accelerated plans after Inouye’s family asked the university to take more time to get feedback from the public and do a thorough design plan. The university sought a scaled-down $5 million capital request during the 2014 legislative session, which lawmakers increased to $10 million in state-backed bonds.
Using an initial $500,000 in private funds, the university contracted internationally renowned architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects of New York, along with Honolulu-based Clifford Planning & Architecture, to design the center. No public funds were spent on the designs, Sabas said.
In mid-2014 the firms unveiled conceptual plans for a three-story building — to be built where Henke Hall now sits on East-West Road — featuring modern classrooms, multipurpose assembly spaces for seminars, a “great hall” for public gatherings, a library archive and exhibition space.
The project was put forward at a time when the Board of Regents began taking steps to address the repair backlog by curbing new construction. The board in late 2013 imposed a moratorium on new construction projects but exempted the Inouye center from the freeze.
That same year, the board approved a strategy to tackle the backlog using revenue bonds that would be paid back over time with tuition revenue. That approach was rejected by legislators who bristled at the thought of saddling students with long-term debt for facilities. Still, legislators have been unwilling to increase the level of state bonds UH gets for repairs. Taniguchi (D, Makiki-Tantalus-Manoa) says he isn’t convinced the university has the capacity to handle an increase.
Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for UH, said because the Inouye project’s size and costs climbed considerably since state funding was first approved two years ago, the design plans were inconsistent with what legislators authorized.
The appropriation had specified a facility of approximately 20,000 square feet. The conceptual designs, however, called for a facility of approximately 38,200 square feet. The costs rose to $39 million from an initial $20 million for construction and $50.5 million overall.
Meisenzahl said UH met with the Inouye family and Sabas’ organization to discuss the project’s future.
“With everything going on at the time with the moratorium, the deferred-maintenance issue really coming to a head, which we’re still dealing with, when we went back to the family and assessed the entire environment, that’s when they asked to withdraw the project,” he said.
Despite the setback, the university and the Daniel K. Inouye Institute are moving ahead with efforts to archive the senator’s congressional papers at Hamilton Library on the Manoa campus; provide learning opportunities for students; and promote civic engagement.
“Sen. Inouye’s legacy really reflects how Hawaii has led the nation in important areas like civil rights and civil liberty, and his model for leadership is one that we hope to use to inspire the next generation,” Denise Konan, dean of the College of Social Sciences at UH-Manoa and the academic lead for the Daniel K. Inouye Democratic Leadership program, said in an interview.
“These programs are really important whether we have a building dedicated to that effort or whether we build them into our existing effort,” Konan added.
Pau for now
The family of the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and the DKI Institute have decided that a campus center honoring Inouye will not move ahead as scheduled. Here are the key dates leading up to this decision:
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye dies passes. At the time of his death, Inouye, 88, was the longest-serving member of the Senate and served as president pro tempore, third in line to the presidency.
UH seeks requests for qualifications to design a center to house the late senator’s congressional papers. The solicitation says the project is expected to be 15,000 to 20,000 square feet and cost $16 million to $20 million to build.
UH Board of Regents approves $500,000 in private funds for conceptual design phase.
Regents approve $5 million in state bonds for design and construction as part of 2014-15 legislative budget request.
UH announces selection of Clifford Planning & Architecture and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects as architectural design team. Regents impose moratorium on new construction projects to focus on repair backlog, but exempt the center.
Legislature approves capital budget with $12.5 million for design and construction of the center. The funds — $10 million in state bonds, $1.5 million in private funds and $1 million in revolving funds — will lapse June 30.2016
Architectural firms release conceptual design plans calling for a 38,200-square-foot center that will cost $39 million to build and $50.5 million overall.
Regents insert placeholder amount in 2016-17 budget request to cover increased construction costs.