The University of Hawaii Maui College is looking to start work on a fully functioning hotel that would provide "hands-on experience" for students and executive suites for guests, officials said.
"The vision is not only for our hospitality program, but all lines of education," Lorelle Peros said. "We hope to start building by the end of this year."
The project, called the Hospitality Academy of Maui, is a $3.4 million renovation of the former student housing site located on the corner of Kaahumanu and Wahine Pio avenues in Kahului. The four-building complex will have a lobby and at least a dozen rooms, "all open to the public to stay in," Peros said.
The University of Hawaii Maui College’s Hospitality Academy of Maui will be located at the former student housing site at the corner of Kaahumanu and Wahine Pio avenues in Kahului.
The Maui News / LEAH SHERMAN photo
Instructor Rachael Helschein (left) leads a yoga class Saturday morning at the University of Hawaii Maui College Wellness Center.
The Maui News / LEAH SHERMAN photo
The idea for the academy came to Peros and members of the Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Committee when the group toured the buildings, built in the 1980s, months after they were vacated in the fall of 2008.
"We were saying, 'Hey this has some potential,' " Peros said. "That's when the concept of a teaching hotel was formed."
Peros, who has been with the college for more than 10 years, said that she and the committee members are looking to transform the complex of about 12 units into a LEED-certified hotel open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Peros said that plans are still being formalized about the redesign of the complex, but she would like to implement an "Adopt a Room Program," where "hotels and resorts will sponsor a room to be outfitted to their brand standards."
She said that she would like to have a blend of different rooms inspired by hotel chains such as Four Seasons and Hilton.
"We'll have to work on a pricing structure, but we're looking for a mix of rooms," she said.
UH-Maui College's Hospitality & Tourism program, which has approximately 86 students, has only one class that will meet at the complex and is currently redesigning its curriculum to incorporate new classes.
"For the front office class, they do some career shadowing at resorts, lectures in classrooms," she said. "But with this lab they wouldn't be restricted to a computer simulation; it would be the real thing."
While the college is still preparing for the academy and the start of classes Monday, construction has begun on a $4 million photovoltaic system to stand over the college's rear parking lot.
"They just started putting up the fences today," said David Tamanaha, vice chancellor for administrative services, in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "(This project) provides shaded parking for roughly 200 to 250 parking stalls, but at the same time creates renewable energy, or electricity, for the college.
"If you look at today's rates, we'll save about $122,000 a year."
The 565-kilowatt solar-powered system will include eight electric vehicle charging stations, with pay rates to be determined in the future, Tamanaha said.
Additionally, he said, the project, which is a power purchasing agreement with national developer Johnson Controls Inc., will hopefully provide educational opportunities for students.
"Our students have been involved with more than $9 million in projects over the past year and a half," Tamanaha said, noting chiller consolidations, lighting retrofits and other energy projects. "Our students shadow contractors, undergo training and then are allowed to participate in the work."
Tamanaha expects the project to be finished in late December or early January.
Due to the construction, three rows of parking stalls are closed and students and faculty are asked to use the grass field next to the college's new science building as overflow parking.
With the fall semester around the corner, 3,973 students were enrolled as of Saturday afternoon. The number is a 9.1 percent drop from last year and the second largest drop percentage-wise of all UH schools behind Hawaii Community College (9.3 percent). UH-West Oahu had the largest increase, at 15.2 percent.
Despite the slight decline in population, the college's Wellness Center has expanded its offerings in yoga and Pilates to meet increased demand, said UH-Maui College spokeswoman Nicole Beattie.
The center, which offers fitness classes for students, faculty, staff and the general public, has a one-time, semester fee that provides access to all classes. Student passes are $35 and the general public is $70. Faculty, staff and seniors (55 years and old) pay $55.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.