By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
University of Hawaii at Hilo celebrated Monday morning the dedication of its newest facility, Hale ‘Alahonua Student Residence Hall.
Today, the $32.5 million building, located on Kawili Street across from the main campus entrance, is set to begin moving in up to 300 of this year’s newest crop of students within its trio of of three-story wings, along with large common areas and exterior courtyards. In addition to the dedication, the building also received its certificate of occupancy this week, said Chancellor Donald Straney.
“We made it just in time,” he said with a smile.
The project, which ordinarily would have taken about 21 months to complete, took only 14 months from start to finish, said Miles Nagata, director of university housing. The construction needed to be complete in time for the start to classes this year, he said.
The 105,505-square-foot building located on 33 acres is “just the beginning,” UHH officials said, referring to its status as Phase I in a larger University Village concept that will include commercial buildings and communal areas for students to live, work and play.
Among those who gathered to help celebrate Hilo’s only new residential facility to be built on campus since 1989 was Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called his reasons for being present “selfish.”
“It means so much to me to be here, to be a part of this. … There’s a lot of people who are going to have to get in line behind me if they want to help support this university,” he said.
Abercrombie reflected on how far the university has come in its growth and addition of new facilities, and how little was here in Hilo back when he was a student.
“Malama Solomon and I, we served in the legislature together back when Hilo Community College was it,” he said. “There was no vision about what school opportunities there would be. … But the people in Hilo, they had faith in the Big Island, and what it could be.”
In presenting the building to the public, Straney called it “a great day,” saying that “a well-rounded education includes the personal growth, development and global perspective our students gain by living with each other on campus. Thanks to the efforts of our Hawaii Island legislators, support from Gov. Abercrombie and others, that opportunity will be available to many more students.”
Hale ‘Alahonua takes its moniker from the Hawaiian word for a breeze specific to Hilo — “the breeze upon which the fragrance of earth is carried.”
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.