EXCLUSIVE: UH paid $1.4M to design West Oahu building, then $2.5M to re-design it

EXCLUSIVE: UH paid $1.4M to design West Oahu building, then $2.5M to re-design it

KAPOLEI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii paid $1.4 million to design an administration building and then a few years later paid $2.5 million more to a different architect to re-design the building at UH West Oahu.

When the Kapolei campus first opened its new facilities three years ago, students didn't know what to think when they saw a patch of weeds where an administration building was supposed to have been built.

"When we got here, we kind of see how the layout of the campus is supposed to be and we look around as a new student and it gets kind of confusing because we're expecting admin to be there," said UH West Oahu student Jacob Martin of Waipahu, a humanities major.

The administration building is listed on some campus maps, even though it's never been built.

UH West Oahu justice administration major Christian Honeker said when he arrived on campus in 2012, he thought, "OK, that's kind of interesting how there's no building there when it's there on the map."

UH spent $1.4 million for John Hara and Associates to design the administration building that was supposed to go on a parcel of land near the school's main entrance.  But UH dropped the structure from its initial construction five years ago, even though the plans were fully completed and the city had granted a building permit for construction to begin, because the project was running out of money and had millions in cost overruns.

"Obviously we want to spend every penny efficiently and in this particular case, we had to change our plans along the way and we think it's for the best reasons," said Dan Meisenzahl, a spokesman for the University of Hawaii.

When UH later asked state lawmakers for money to build the administration building and another classroom and lab complex for various allied health programs such as physical therapy, geriatric and respiratory care, Meisenzahl said legislators told them to combine the two.

"And it's cheaper to build one building, a little larger building, than two separate buildings.  And I think that's why the legislature requested that we come back with a plan that incorporates both buildings and addresses both needs," Meisenzahl said.

So the UH spent another $2.5 million hiring a new architectural firm – KYA Design Group --  to design a new building on the same spot.

When Hawaii News Now told Martin, the humanities major, about the pricey re-design, he said, "Just the figure amount is painful, just because I'm the low rung, I'm the student. And it's kind of scary."

Meisenzahl said state procurement laws required a complete re-design because it needed to add classroom and lab space and increase the size of the building by about one third.

"The scope of the project completely changed.  It went from just office space to office space, classrooms and laboratories.  It went from one size to a much larger building," Meisenzahl said.

UH plans to begin construction on the new $36 million building in September of 2016 with completion expected in 2018.

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