Construction of new College of Pharmacy building nearly finished

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald The compounding lab at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy's new building.
  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald Space where the mock pharmacy will be located at the new Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building.
  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald University of Hawaii at Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin on Tuesday during a tour walks past a newly-installed mural in the new Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building.
  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald Jerry Watanabe, director of Office of Facilities Planning and Construction at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, stands in a lecture hall in the new Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy building during a tour of the facility Tuesday.
  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald Three years after construction began, the new home of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy will welcome students next semester.

Three years after breaking ground on the new building for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, work is nearing completion and classes are slated to start there next semester.

“The building is really meant as an education building,” said Dean Carolyn Ma on Tuesday. “It’s three floors, 45,000 square feet, and we started our 13th year this year, so we’ve waited a long time for this building.”


The Tribune-Herald was able to tour the facility Tuesday along with Ma and other UH-Hilo administrators, including Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ken Hon and interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza.

Located on Nowelo Street, overlooking ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center with views of the Pacific, the new building continues with the campus’ red color scheme. Ma said the side of the building and the way it slants is supposed to represent the flow of lava.

The first level consists of lecture rooms, breakout rooms, a student lounge and restrooms. The second level includes an administration suite with counsel offices, administrative and faculty offices, labs, a medication therapy management suite, mock pharmacy, resource center, two seminar rooms, consult rooms, laboratories and restrooms.

Since its inception more than a decade ago, the college has operated out of temporary sites while it struggled to secure funding for a permanent facility.

Administrative offices were located at the old Hilo Memorial Hospital near Rainbow Falls, students and student affairs were housed in modular buildings near the new building site and research facilities were located near the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, Ma said.

“We are very happy to be moving in here,” Ma said. The modular buildings that housed students in the intervening years “have run their lifetime.”

Those, however, will be re-purposed in part for research facilities, “and then we are on one campus, which is really what our accreditors want,” she said.

Lawmakers in 2014 authorized $33 million to fund the building, and after several years of delays and scaled-back budget requests the project was awarded to Isemoto Contracting Co. for $31.3 million in April 2016, with construction beginning that fall.

On Tuesday, crews were working on the audio-visual system in the first-floor lecture halls.

That technology is important because even though the main campus is based in Hilo, Ma said the College of Pharmacy has faculty on Kauai and Oahu who practice in clinical settings, and about 75% of students rotate out to neighbor islands.

Ma said the new facility will “help us to feel very much anchored into this community and that we are really permanently in this and how we are such a part of this community.”

Irwin, who started as UH-Hilo chancellor in July, said she’s “always excited to have up-to-date facilities for our students.”

She said previously that the new and completed building would help improve College of Pharmacy enrollment, “and after seeing the facilities, I think that even more.”

Ma said they can start moving items into the building in early November, “and we plan to have a certificate of occupancy on Nov. 19. We can’t move people in until that happens.”


A blessing ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 4.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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