November 06, 2014

$5.2M Sought for Center's Design

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November 6, 2014

One year after the University of Hawaii agreed to slow down hurried plans to build a center to honor the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, university officials want to spend $5 million to complete the design phase of the project, which could break ground in a year to 18 months.

The Board of Regents Planning and Facilities Committee on Wednesday voted to recommend for full board approval a $5.2 million increase to the design contract for the planned Daniel K. Inouye Center for Democratic Leadership to be built at UH-Manoa.

The money would be added to an initial $500,000 in private funds that has been used for a conceptual design, and would come from state funding already authorized by the Legislature for the project.

The request came to the board from interim Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman through UH's associate vice president for capital improvements and the vice president for administration, according to an Oct. 30 memo.

UH last year named internationally renowned architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects of New York along with Honolulu-based Clifford Planning & Architecture to design the center.

"The money's already there. We already approved half a million dollars for architectural fees, obviously not enough, and so we're taking another $5.2 million of the total $10 million (design) appropriation," said regent Barry Mizuno, chairman of the Planning and Facilities Committee. "We're not talking construction at this point, we're just talking design money."

The proposed center is one of about a dozen projects the board agreed to exempt from a moratorium it imposed late last year on new construction. The freeze was intended to help redirect resources toward the university's outsized repair and maintenance backlog.

Not long after Inouye's death in December 2012, UH leaders developed a $25 million proposal for a center to house his congressional papers. But the project came under fire not only for the speed with which UH was pursuing it but also for the hefty price tag.

UH a year ago 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. UH sought a scaled-down $5 million capital request during the 2014 legislative session, which lawmakers increased to $10 million in general obligation bonds.

The university over the summer unveiled the architectural firms' conceptual plans for a three-story building featuring modern classrooms, multipurpose assembly spaces for seminars, a "great hall" for public gatherings, a library archive and exhibition space. It will be built where aging Henke Hall now sits on East-West Road.

The project's costs have climbed to $39 million for construction and $50.5 million overall, according to estimates UH Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia shared with the committee Wednesday. It has also grown from a proposed 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot facility to 38,200 square feet.

Gouveia said a preliminary business plan pegs annual building operations and maintenance costs at about $150,000. The center is expected to generate some income through facility rentals, federal grants and a proposed cafe or restaurant.

"The Manoa campus is expected to be responsible for all costs and expenses associated with the design and construction, as well as the operation and basic maintenance of the facility," Gouveia said.

Jennifer Sabas, the late senator's longtime chief of staff and now director of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, said private funds will be used to pay for "the nice-to-haves," such as contemporary design fixtures, equipment and technology. She said the institute is also establishing an endowment to help cover ongoing building maintenance.

The bulk of the construction costs is expected to be picked up by the Legislature.

"We want to be sure that what we say we can build, we stay within budget," Sabas said of the upcoming design phase, which is expected to take about a year.

Plans call for the center to eventually house all seven academic programs of UH-Manoa's College of Social Sciences.

Denise Konan, the college's dean and academic lead on the Inouye project, said the college's expertise and programs in public administration and public policy could help the new center function as a so-called center of excellence.