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UH Mānoa Housing and Entrepreneurship Center

June 27, 2021, 9:26 AM HST
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Project partners plan to begin work in late July on a first-of-its-kind, $70-million, six-story facility at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa that integrates student housing and an innovation/entrepreneurship center, funded with private, non-taxpayer money. The university and UH Foundation are working together in a public-private partnership (P3) with Hunt Development Group to design, build and finance the live, learn, work innovation facility at the Atherton YMCA location.  

It is one of a number of P3 and real estate projects UH is pursuing to more affordably build modern educational facilities and develop alternative revenue streams to support the UH mission.

“This project represents a new era for the University of Hawaiʻi in several ways. It will provide a dynamic immersive educational and living experience to prepare students to push the frontiers of innovation and entrepreneurship as they become the foundation of a more diverse and sustainable new economy,” said UH President David Lassner. “It will also be the first, but not last, of our major construction projects to be initiated without investment of public taxpayer funding. Our deepest gratitude to the UH Foundation and the dedicated private sector leaders on the UHF Board for generously sharing their time and expertise to ensure that the historic Atherton property remains a part of UH Mānoa and for their commitment to UH as the economic engine of our islands.”

Tim Dolan, UH Vice President of Advancement and UH Foundation CEO said, “We are very happy to be a partner in this P3 project that will bring an innovation education hub to our campus community. Donors too are key partners in this ambitious project. Their philanthropic investments have helped bring us to this point, and their continued support is paramount to us leveraging all the opportunities this center will provide for our students and our economy.”  

The 114,000-square-foot structure will integrate academic and collaborative spaces with student housing, including 219 one and two-bedroom units for a total of 373 beds. The new facility, located at the corner of University Avenue and Metcalf Street, will be home to the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) and will be modeled after the highly successful University of Utah Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.

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In addition to living facilities, the 18,000-square-foot center includes co-working offices, meeting rooms, classrooms and prototyping labs with 3D printers, scanners, sewing machines and laser cutters. Students from multiple disciplines will have the opportunity to engage in entrepreneurial education in what will be a one-stop shop for UH programs supporting research, innovation and entrepreneurship, areas critical to diversifying the state’s economy.

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“UH Mānoa is one of the leading research universities in the country, and we must create an environment where we can transform laboratory research into applied commercialization opportunities,” said Susan Yamada, PACE vice chair. “This center will be an ecosystem to support UH innovators and a catalyst for entrepreneurial activity in Hawaiʻi. Entrepreneurs don’t work nine to five, they work late into the night and on the weekends. Imagine having a space to go to, where you’ll meet other like-minded people, bounce ideas around, and find the resources needed to move an idea to the next phase of startup.”

Hunt Development Group will fund the project, and rental income will offset the bonds issued to finance the project. The Atherton YMCA consists of the Charles Atherton House and the Mary Atherton Richards House located on the 1-acre site across the street from one of the main entry points to the UH Mānoa campus, the Sinclair Student Success Center and Campus Center. 

The project will maintain the iconic facade of the pink Charles Atherton House on the property.

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Demolition of the gray Mary Atherton Richards House is scheduled to begin in late July.  A resolution that would extend the boundary of the campus to include the Atherton property is scheduled to be heard at a public hearing before the City Council on July 7. The Mānoa Neighborhood Board overwhelmingly approved the project concept in 2019 with a 9-1 vote.

The university and the YMCA have already partnered to allow the YMCA to continue to provide its programs based out of the UH Mānoa campus at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services.

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