Health Dept. looks to spend $100M to renovate rundown headquarters building
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department has told lawmakers it wants to spend $100 million to renovate its rundown headquarters building.
Under the preliminary plan, the building would also house mental health treatment beds, but lawmakers are not sure if the project is viable.
Kinau Hale, on Punchbowl Street, was built in the years before the danger of asbestos was known. Walls on the first floor don’t touch the ceiling to avoid disturbing it. Renovation has been on the backburner for years, partly because of the uncertainty of how much the dilapidated building will cost to renovate.
Although lawmakers inserted a $100 million dollars for the project in the 2025 budget, they still aren’t sure, according to Rep. Scott Nishimoto, who managed the House Construction budget for the Finance Committee.
“We put money in the second year of the budget, just so that we can kind of come back next year and see, you know, is this viable? It’s very preliminary,” Nishimoto said. “So, we don’t know what the viability of it what the price tag is. If the price tag is too high … we might say, OK, that that’s not doable.”
The money would also pay to convert the first floor — where folks now come for vital records and marriage licenses — into a mental health crisis unit including stabilization beds. That’s part of a movement to distribute services closer to the people who might need them.
“Having these beds will get people off the street that need the help,” Nishimoto said. “And, you know, they’ll never get better unless they get help.”
Kinau Hale is not far from where Gov. Josh Green said he wants to build a small Kauhale Village for the homeless and on a recent appearance on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Facebook page, he defended offering services in the Capitol district,
“Well, where in the hell do you think people who are homeless live in the urban core, that’s where a lot of people are, and they are struggling, they’re suffering, we have to make sure it’s safer for those around them,” Green said. “And that’s why you do these things, you have to go to where people are.”
“I just drove in an hour ago into the Capitol, and they were two individuals, you know, lying on the sidewalk … and you wouldn’t lie down there if it wasn’t a mental health issue, right.”
The appropriation will receive final approval Thursday — the day the Legislature wraps up its 2023 session.
Copyright 2023 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.