US Senator Daniel Inouye
US Senator Daniel Inouye

University of Hawaii regents attended a ground breaking ceremony for the $120 million Cancer Research Center project today, then met in closed session to approve a $2.5 million legal settlement with the original project manager.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye spoke at the groundbreaking, describing his personal anguish when his wife succumbed to cancer in 2006.

“I spent one month and one week in a cot beside my wife’s hospital bed,” Inouye said.

Near the end, Inouye said, his wife told doctors to withhold food and treatment, except for pain killers.

“She only wanted the painkillers and water, and she told me she would die in 10 days,” Inouye said.  “Can you imagine hearing your wife tell you that?” he asked.

The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii is being built on land makai of the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns Medical School near the waterfront in Kakaako.

It will be a 13-story structure with 150,000 square feet of office and lab space.

The price tag is projected to be $120 million, although Gov. Linda Lingle recently released $140 million in construction funds. Lingle said $20 million is set aside to cover possible contingency expenses.

The construction funds do not include $28 million for design fees.

The original project manager, Townsend Capital of Maryland, sued the University last year after the company was ousted from the development.

The suit alleged that Townsend was removed from the project as a result of political cronyism, charges that University officials denied.

The University admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.

Regents had no comment on the settlement after they emerged from a closed-door executive session except to confirm the $2.5 million figure, first reported earlier this month by Hawaii Reporter.

The new project manager is Kobayashi Group LLC, founded by former UH regents chairman Bert Kobayashi Sr.

The construction contract was awarded to Albert C. Kobayashi, Inc., founded by Bert Kobayashi’s father.

Townsend was ousted from the project by former Kobayashi Group employee Brian Minaai, now a UH vice president.

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