EXCLUSIVE: State office building vacant for 12 years finally getting fixed

Published: Mar. 24, 2015 at 8:16 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 24, 2015 at 9:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An aged state building on prime real estate just a block away from the State Capitol that's been vacant for 12 years is finally getting renovated.

The Princess Victoria Kamamalu Building, at the corner of King and Richards streets, was built in 1957 and needed renovations in 2003 when 300 state employees moved out.

It's been empty so long a tree has grown in front of its main sign and another tree has sprouted on the roof.

"I think we've been working to get this building up and operational for over 12 years and we're excited to finally start construction," said Doug Murdock, the state comptroller who is director of the state's Department of Accounting and General Services, which oversees state facilities and purchasing.

In 2005, the state set aside $12.6 million for renovations to the building but when it discovered pervasive asbestos and deteriorated building systems, repair estimates more than doubled.

Removal of asbestos, as well as old air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems cost about $1.4 million.

"The original funding that we had was good for removing asbestos and doing some other remediation work that we had to do to turn it into an empty shell as it is now," Murdock said.

But during the recession, the project languished without the money to complete it while the state explored selling or swapping the property.

"We've just within the past few years, gotten the full funding to rebuild the entire building," Murdock said.

Contractor Ralph S. Inouye Co. begins renovations costing $25 million March 30. Tentative plans call for employees from the state health and human services departments to relocate there in the fall of 2016, Murdock said.

"We spend a lot of money leasing offices for state workers and so by bringing them back into one of our own buildings, we will have a cost savings," Murdock said.

The state estimates it will save about $1.6 million in rent annually by putting the building back into operation.

The state rents about 250,000 square feet of office space for state departments from private landlords in the urban Honolulu area and Gov. David Ige wants to move more employees into state-owned facilities like the Kamamalu Building, saving taxpayers money in the long run.

The building is within walking distance of many key state offices. It is just a block and a half away from the Capitol and a few blocks away from the headquarters of both the health and human services departments.

"We're just working to make it a very efficient office space for state employees and it will be very close to the Capitol so they'll have good access that way," Murdock added.

When the building was built in 1957, the nine-story building was listed as the tallest commercial building in Honolulu. The state bought the property from Hawaiian Trust Co. for $2.5 million in 1968.