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maile lei at groundbreaking

ʻŌʻō (digging sticks) loosening dirt in unison, a long strand of maile lei held by dignitaries blessed with wai (water), and Hawaiian salt lightly sprinkled on the ground marked the start of construction of a $170-million student housing facility on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus. The October 4 groundbreaking for the Residences for Graduate Students began with UH Mānoa spokeswoman Moanikeʻala Nabarro grounding the ceremony in ʻāina (land) based ʻike (knowledge) where the two buildings that will make up the facility will be built.

render of residences for graduate students at u h manoa
Exterior render

“As UH Mānoa strives to become a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning, we understand how vital it is to carry ʻike about the ʻāina on which we stand, sit, live and work,” said Nabarro. “We are privileged to have the opportunity to be here in the ahupuaʻa of Waikīkī, a place teeming with deeply-rooted legends and rich moʻolelo (stories) that can still be felt on our very skin in the form of nourishing rains and winds.”

The Residences for Graduate Students will be located on the ma uka (mountain) side of Dole Street between the East-West Center and the Mānoa stream. There will be 316 units total in the facility for more than 550 graduate students and their families, along with junior faculty members. The complex is scheduled to be completed in fall 2025 and will include a childcare facility, retail spaces, study rooms and a café.


“Our graduate students here at Mānoa, like every other major research university, perform a lot of the actual work behind the discoveries that we make and push out to good use in the community,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno at the groundbreaking. “This project, for the first time, will give them a residence on campus so that they can become more integrated into our campus community and feel like they are a really valued member of our community.”

The modern housing facility is UH’s second major public-private partnership (P3) capital improvement project on the UH Mānoa campus, built by private partners with minimal or zero taxpayer or tuition monies. The first, the Residences for Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) opened in August 2023.

“In Hawaiʻi we hear a lot of rhetoric about P3s,” said UH Vice President for Budget and Finance/CFO Kalbert Young at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I have heard a lot of politicians, government officials, business leaders, talk about the need for P3s in Hawaiʻi literally for decades and yet I am challenged to think of any other project that is a true bonafide P3. And us here today, I think we can take a sense of pride in recognizing, we are talking about ground breaking on the second public-private partnership at the University of Hawaiʻi in less than three years.”

render of building and meeting space
Exterior render

The private partners in the project include the Collegiate Housing Foundation (CHF), a non-profit tax exempt organization that secured the financing in September through tax-exempt bonds that will be repaid with the rental income of residing students at the facility. It will be developed and managed by Greystar Real Estate Partners, and Swinerton Builders has been contracted by Greystar to construct the facility.

Swinterton hosted the groundbreaking and representatives of the CHF and Greystar attended along with Hawaiʻi Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke. The State of Hawaiʻi School Facilities Authority provided $10 million to support the construction of the childcare facility. Providing universal access to preschool in Hawaiʻi is a top initiative of Luke’s.

“What the University of Hawaiʻi is doing is phenomenal,” said Luke at the groundbreaking. “It’s just so mind blowing because what we have always envisioned when we created the School Facilities Authority was co-locating services and co-locating important initial items, and what’s happening here—we are co-located the need for essential housing for our people at the same time, providing the needed childcare preschool expenses.”

UH has agreed to provide $8 million for pre-development and pre-construction work, $2 million a year for rent abatement towards keeping rents more affordable, and a 45-year property lease.

render of buildings and parking lot
Exterior render
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