The University of Waikato's new campus in Tauranga's central business district will be a "benchmark" tertiary building in its use of space and modern facilities, says senior deputy vice-chancellor Professor Alister Jones.
The approved design, unveiled yesterday, features two buildings joined by a central atrium and walkway space to create a campus feel on the downtown Durham St site, which is currently a parking lot.
And while the official completion date for the project is 2020, Professor Jones said he hoped the campus would be open for students by 2019.
The new campus would be collaborating closely with the community and businesses, and with the nearby Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology's Bongard Centre, with the aim of creating a tertiary precinct for Tauranga, he said.
"There is exciting potential ahead for the connections between the new campus and Toi Ohomai."
The campus will also be shared with the other party in the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership, Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi.
"This is a step in realising the vision of having a tertiary precinct in the CBD," said Professor Jones.
"Careful planning is now going to take place and will dictate the programmes that will be offered and the increased opportunities we will be able to deliver to the community, both in terms of the study options and attracting students from outside of the region and internationally."
Dr Neil Barns, Toi Ohomai's interim chief executive, said the design signoff represented how much momentum had been gained on the project. "We have a tremendous opportunity to create a distinctive experience for tertiary students in Tauranga."
Professor Jones paid tribute to architects Jasmax and project managers Greenstone Group for their work in bringing the campus project together.
Jasmax principal Neil Martin said it had been a fantastic project to be involved in.
"It has been characterised by being a community-generated project and the stakeholders have been so supportive," he said. "I think it will be a transformative project for Tauranga."
A key characteristic of the design was taking advantage of the change of level across the site in a way that could accommodate lots of students in various formats, as well as members of the community, he said.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council's chief executive Mary-Anne McLeod said the development would help define the region in a similar way to the development of the port. "I have no doubt it will further define this region as first-choice for living, working and learning."
Tauranga City Council chief executive Garry Poole said the campus would bring enormous benefits for the city and the region. "We're looking forward to working with all our partners to create a vibrant and attractive city so that this university will flourish and succeed."
Paul Adams, a member of the Waikato University council and a key driver behind the project, described the approved design as a very important milestone for Tauranga.
"The linkage of the campus to the CBD and the waterfront and civic development is critical now, so that we get all the bits of the jigsaw in place," he said.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said he liked the way the campus was catering all the different communities.
"You can see it fitting into all the other things we are talking about to get a really strong and vital city centre again."
Over the line
The new design has been signed off by key funders Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT).
It has also been approved by the Tauranga Tertiary Campus Charitable Trust, the entity responsible for overseeing the interests of the three regional funders.
TECT chair Bill Holland described the design as fantastic.
"It caters to everything the CBD campus is about - collaboration, flexible teaching and learning, and the integration of technology to create a truly modern tertiary environment," he said.
Waikato University campus in Tauranga
• Features include customisable teaching spaces, a 200-seat lecture theatre, a multi-function space, computer labs, a cafe and common areas for studying and socialising.
• The campus will have capacity for about 1000 full-time-equivalent students.