Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

University land grab reshapes Auckland (+graphic)

The University of Auckland plans to buy the ex-Lion Brewery site in Newmarket, Auckland. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
The University of Auckland plans to buy the ex-Lion Brewery site in Newmarket, Auckland. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Universities are gobbling up vast parcels of land from one end of Auckland to the other, with the country's top institution now planning to put down roots in Newmarket.

The University of Auckland, Unitec and AUT are all in expansion mode, with Auckland University confirming its plans to buy the 5.4ha ex-Lion Breweries site in Newmarket - the latest move in its $1 billion-plus expansion.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said the university had reached a conditional agreement to buy the site in what he said was probably "its most significant property acquisition in a generation".

There were plans for teaching and research buildings, student accommodation, business development and other facilities.

The Epsom campus would shift to the City Campus, and the Tamaki campus to Newmarket.

"The Newmarket site provides a significant opportunity for the university to manage its growth requirements over the next 50 years.

"This strategic move will eventually see the university consolidate at the city, Grafton and Newmarket campuses, benefiting city life and bringing in new commercial opportunities," Professor McCutcheon said.

Jones Lang LaSalle real estate agent John Binning sees no end to education empire-building.

"There's no stopping them," he said.

The tertiary sector was one of the few needing many more buildings.

"They're leasing B and C-grade buildings that are only 10 or so years old.

"Six or even 10 years ago, I remember Auckland [University] saying they'd take over Symonds St and they have."

Chris Dibble, research chief at Jones Lang LaSalle, said the tertiary sector occupied 100,000sq m of Auckland CBD office space, equivalent to 10ha of floor space or 14 football fields.

After Lion left its Newmarket site for South Auckland, AMP offered $162 millon, then ditched its plans when the economic downturn happened.

Last night the Newmarket Business Association praised the university's move, saying it would revitalise the area.

Chief executive Ashley Church said: "Newmarket is a logical location for a campus providing, as it does, exceptional transportation links ... opportunities for public/ private education partnerships and some of the best retail and commercial services in New Zealand."

Auckland will have 15 university campus sites if the Newmarket deal goes ahead, prompting quips yesterday from one observer about the city "being eaten alive by universities".

Auckland University's property services director, Peter Fehl, is leading the decade-long expansion plan, spending $216 million upgrading the engineering faculty after last year's completion of a $240 million upgrade and expansion of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences in Grafton.

Fletcher Construction will soon hand over to AUT a new $100 million, 12-level block in Mayoral Drive/Governor Fitzroy Place.

It is mainly for the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, which has schools of art and design, communication studies, computing and mathematical sciences, engineering and the interdisciplinary unit creative technologies.

That revamp and expansion will create a new entranceway to the entire AUT city campus. Last year, Unitec expanded out from Mt Albert, citing a shortage of vocational education on the North Shore and Rodney.

- NZ Herald

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