Hawai‘i could partner with private developer to build Honolulu jail

August 28, 2018

August 28, 2018, 2:26pm HST

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Tuesday confirmed that the state will relocate the Oahu Community Correctional Center to the site of the state’s animal quarantine facility in Honolulu and said the state would consider partnering with a private developer to build the new $525 million facility.         

The 38-acre animal quarantine site in Halawa, which straddles the H-3 freeway near the interchange with H201, or the Moanalua Freeway, was identified last fall as the state’s preferred location for the jail, which currently sits on 16.46 acres on Dillingham Boulevard in Kalihi.                 

Ige’s acceptance of the final environmental impact statement was published Thursday in the state Office of Environmental Quality Control’s Environmental Notice. The governor said the next step is for the state to figure out with the Legislature how to finance the $525 million project, which includes $17.5 million for a new, smaller animal quarantine facility on the western portion of the property.                                  

“[General obligation] bond funding of the facility is one option and public private partnership is the other, where we would engage a private sector partner,” Ige said at a news conference at the state Capitol. “It would be mainly in the design and development of the facility; the operations would continue to be a state-operated facility.”                 

The state must also acquire a portion of the eastern side of the site from the Navy, which is working to assess contaminants on the property, said state Comptroller Roderick Becker. The Department of Accounting and General Services is working with the Department of Public Safety, which operates the state’s jails and prisons, on the project.                 

The acquisition time may be lengthy, but the project’s architect, Tom Rudary of AHL, formerly known as Architects Hawaii Ltd., said there would be no vertical construction on the Navy portion of the site, so the project could move forward and still function without it.                 

The new jail, which is projected to open in 2023, would relieve the current overcrowding at the current detention center. OCCC was built to house 954 inmates, but the population on Tuesday alone was 1,222, said Nolan Espinda, director of the Department of Public Safety, which operates the jail.                 

The new facility will have a total of 1,335 beds, which includes 1,044 beds in a detention building and another 288 beds in a separate building for work-furlough inmates.                                 

Espinda, who said he was “absolutely elated” about the plans for the new OCCC, said work is expected to start soon on three other prison expansion projects in Hilo and on Maui and Kauai.                  

The OCCC project also includes an upgrade and expansion of the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua. There currently 144 women inmates housed at OCCC in three separate areas.                  

Becker said the $525 million pricetag doesn’t include the women’s facility. The Legislature has already appropriated $40 million for design and construction during the last session.                

The state will consider what to do with the existing OCCC site, which is along the Honolulu rail route, in a couple of years. Ige noted that the state has already held meetings with the Kalihi community on what their vision for the property might be.                 

“Once the construction begins on new facility then we can begin to talk about a timetable for redevelopment of the existing site” Ige said, adding that the community has expressed an interest in job opportunities, open space and affordable housing. "I think all of those opportunities for that site would be available to begin the next phase of community conversations.”        

Janis L. Magin            

Real Estate Editor            

Pacific Business News

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