HILO, Hawaii: Government and higher education officials gathered on a soggy Friday morning in the partially cleared lot across the street from the main entrance of the University of Hawaii-Hilo in order to break ground on an important project.

The University Village student housing project has been long in the making, and now phase I is finally underway.

Officials break ground at UH-Hilo

A groundbreaking ceremony was held today for the University of Hawai`i at Hilo’s University Village Phase I. The project, located on 33 acres fronting the University’s main entrance on Kawili Street, will feature approximately 300 student housing units in apartments and suite-style residence halls.

The new units are the first to be built on campus since 1989, and are being financed by a $32 million appropriation of G.O. and Revenue Bonds approved by the legislature. UH Hilo currently has just 600 housing units on campus serving an enrollment in excess of 4,100.

“This project will ensure our continued growth and development,” said Chancellor Don Straney. “We deeply appreciate the efforts of our Hawai`i Island legislators along with the support of Governor Neil Abercrombie that made this initiative possible.”

In addition to servicing the University’s growing enrollment, the new units will help create a supportive living, learning community. Students from the sophomore class and above will be housed in the new units, allowing the more centrally located housing on campus to be utilized for promising new student success initiatives, like a freshman village.

”This gives UH Hilo a chance to distinguish itself as the State’s residential campus and to be on the leading edge nationally for promoting a positive student learning environment,” said Luoluo Hong, vice chancellor for student affairs.

Phase I will be housed in a 105,500 square-foot complex occupying approximately five acres. The building will feature a trio of three-story residential wings comprised of two-bedroom units housing 302 students and a one-story Resident Life common area that interlocks with two exterior courtyards. Other amenities will include a new parking lot and bike storage for residents.

The standard residential units measure 324 square-feet with a pair of 84 square-foot bedrooms, bathroom and shower facilities and an entry lounge. A modified, standard two-bedroom unit that complies with ADA standards will also be available.

The Resident Life component will provide a “home away from home” where residents can lounge and mingle with each other as well as tend to their day-to-day activities. Key features include a laundry area, mailing facilities, study/conference rooms, computer lab and pantries.

The development was planned and designed by Mitsunaga and Associates, Inc., (MAI) of Honolulu. Albert C. Kobayashi, Inc. has been selected as the general contractor for the project, which is expected to be completed in 2013.

Completion of Phase I will lay the groundwork for Phase II, a shared vision to develop a campus-related commercial center. This initiative, planned and developed by the private sector, will create the ambiance of a college town that will complement both the University and Hilo community while creating economic activity that affords opportunities for small businesses as well as workforce development.

SOURCE: University of Hawaii-Hilo