State Judiciary officials have selected a new site for the Kona Judiciary Complex.
A 10-acre parcel owned by the Queen Liliuokalani Trust located mauka of Queen Kaahumanu Highway, and across Makala Boulevard from the Makalapua Center, is now the planned site for the complex, officials said Thursday.
Chief Administrator Rodney Maile said a rare uhiuhi tree was growing on the larger parcel near the West Hawaii Civic Center that included the judiciary’s preferred site. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also proposed designating the land as a critical habitat area.
“That kind of compounded issues,” Maile said. “Because of the importance of moving forward with the project and trying not to get hung up,” officials decided to go with the second site, rather than wait to see if mitigation measures could be used to prevent harm to the tree during construction.
Maile said the original site and the newly selected site had the same score in the evaluation process, both ranking “very suitable” for the complex.
The initially selected site was state land, which is why officials picked it over the newly selected site, he added. One benefit of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust site, which Maile said would be leased to the Judiciary for a nominal amount that has yet to be finalized, is the opportunity for commercial development nearby. That’s something the site near the civic center did not offer.
Trust officials are in separate discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the proposed critical habitat designation, which affects some trust property as well, Maile said.
Officials, in a news release, said they expected the “construction timetable and budget for the project will not be significantly impacted by the change in location, since the design work that has been undertaken so far can be utilized at the new site.”
A message left for West Hawaii Bar Association President Bob Borns was not immediately returned Friday.
The project is expected to cost about $90 million. The Legislature has, thus far, appropriated $9 million, with the expectation legislators could request the remaining funding, for construction, after more design and planning work was completed.
Construction is expected to begin in 2016, with the intention of opening the complex in 2019. Right now, the Judiciary operates court at three sites throughout Kona. The Keakealani Courthouse, which is home to District Court and some 3rd Circuit Court proceedings, has limited parking and cramped waiting areas for defendants, witnesses, family members and court staff. The new complex will be about 140,000 square feet and accommodate seven full-time judges.