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WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Maui County has a set of old college dorms in mind for low-income housing.

But a recent inspection shows the buildings have a long way to go before they can be turned into livable spaces — or the best option might be to tear them down and rebuild, The Maui News reported Sunday.

Carol Reimann, director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, said that the inspection revealed leaks, mold, poorly repaired fixtures and visible cracks in the foundation. Reimann said it would take “an army of licensed contractors” to make the old University of Hawaii Maui College dorms livable.

Reimann said the dorms in Kahului were built in 1981 and have been vacant for at least 20 years. The nearly 9-acre (3.6-hectare) property includes three residential buildings, each with four apartment units; a multipurpose building with laundry, mail and recreation rooms; and a parking lot with 17 stalls.

Each apartment unit is about 800 square feet (74 square meters) with two bedrooms and one bath.

After the dorms were vacated, the college planned to open a hospitality training academy on the site but later decided to build it elsewhere on campus. With the lease set to expire in 2035, Chancellor Lui Hokoana said the college is willing to give up the lease earlier to allow the county to use the property for housing.

“I get calls from the community all the time (asking) why don’t I turn it into housing?” Hokoana said. “It can only be used for education if we keep it.”

Hokoana said the college is supportive of the county’s plans and would be open to providing services to families, such as children’s summer programs and job training.

In March 2016, the college did a hazardous materials study of two buildings and discovered asbestos in the flooring and roof shingles, Reimann said. A county-funded inspection by Honolulu-based Professional Real Estate Inspectors on March 28 also found plenty of problems.

“When we spoke to the inspector the other day, he had told us that when you see vertical cracks, that could be something seriously wrong with the foundation,” Reimann said.

Reimann has laid out three different options for the buildings. The first option, renovation, would cost about $300 per square foot and would require gutting and rebuilding the structures.

“We don’t advise renovation, because once they start gutting, there are many unknowns,” Reimann said. “If you renovate and you go through taking things out, who knows what you would find.”

The department’s other recommendations are to either demolish and scrape or demolish and rebuild. If the buildings were demolished and scraped, the county could redo the interior floor plan but could not expand beyond the current foundations. However, if the buildings were demolished and rebuilt, the county would have the option to expand beyond the dorms’ current footprint.


Information from: The Maui News,