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UH state-of-the-art cancer reasearch center back on track

November 28, 2009
By GREG WILES, The Honolulu Advertiser

The development of a new home for the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii is on again, with the selection of a new planning and project management team after a disagreement with a prior developer ended up in court.

The University of Hawaii said it has selected a new team to build the facility next to the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako, with groundbreaking set for late next year and project completion for 2013.

The project will provide an up-to-175,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for researchers. The Cancer Research Center is a designated National Cancer Institute center, but its current operations are scattered, with 150 researchers doing most of their work at a 33,000-square-foot building on Lauhala Street near The Queen's Medical Center. Another 30 people work at the UH medical school, and 50 people, mostly administrators, are housed in leased space at the former Gold Bond building on Ala Moana Boulevard.

"This is an important day for the people of our state, because we are one step closer to our vision of a state-of-the-art research center," M.R.C. Greenwood, the UH president, said in a news release earlier this week.

"It means that soon the people of Hawaii will have better options for cancer treatment and prevention."

Kobayashi Group LLC of Honolulu was selected as the project management firm to oversee design and construction, and will work with Skyline Construction of California, a firm that has a track record of designing and developing research laboratories.

Hawaii-based Wilson Okamoto and Associates was selected to manage project planning. An architectural firm is in talks with the state and will be announced when the contract is finalized. The winning team was selected from seven proposals evaluated by the Research Corp. of the University of Hawaii.

A price tag for the project will be released as plans are refined. Earlier, the new center carried a price tag of about $200 million, but that was for a larger facility of 200,000 square feet.

The new plans call for a center of 150,000 to 175,000 square feet, said center spokeswoman Kellie Tormey. She said the project was downsized after plans for a patient clinic were taken out of the plan.

The cancer center announced plans earlier this year to exclude the clinic from the plans and work with physicians in local hospitals in conducting clinical cancer research.

The project remains the subject of a lawsuit brought by Townsend Hawaii LLC, which had been selected by UH to negotiate an agreement on designing, financing and building the project. But in February of this year, UH set a deadline for completing negotiations with Townsend that excluded the developer from obtaining project financing.

Talks with Townsend broke off in June, and in August the developer filed a breach of contract lawsuit in 1st Circuit Court seeking damages, including lost profits.

Townsend claims it had worked toward breaking ground on the project and had received progress payments from the state before the split.

"They're in full breach," said Terry Thomason, the attorney for Townsend.

He said the developer is unlikely to seek reinstatement to perform the work and is in the discovery phase of the litigation.

"We're going forward. Nothing has changed."

Tuesday, UH spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said the state is proceeding with the project.

"There's nothing to stop us from moving ahead on the cancer center," Tanaka said.

UH recently received $28 million from the state to help finance the start of the project, saying the release of funds and subsequent commencement of planning and design would ensure the continuation of a $1 million per year National Cancer Institute grant to support ongoing research here.

Besides that funding, there is about $37 million set aside from the tobacco tax fund for the construction, with more accruing annually, Tormey said.



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