A new $100 million tertiary campus opens in Manukau today - with backers hoping it will not just transform the central business district but also the area's study rates.
However, Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) is now under significant financial strain after the collapse of Mainzeal added about $30 million to the project and delayed its completion.
The impressive new building, which sits between Hayman Park and Westfield Manukau City, ended up costing around $100 million after Hawkins Construction took it on.
The basement floor of the seven level building opens into the Manukau Rail Station.
Commuters who take the stairs or escalators from the station emerge into a corner of the ground floor, which is designed to be a public space, with retail spaces and cafes.
The building's defining feature is a soaring six story atrium space, which floors on each level open out into - an arresting feature born from necessity.
"As we went through the process we found that it was almost an inevitable outcome of the existing rail trench," said Blair Johnston, lead design architect and executive director of Warren and Mahoney.
"A large proportion of the building is hung from the roof trusses above...typically you build from the ground up, here in part we had to build from the roof down."
The nearly 20,000 square metre building contains closed-off class rooms - some with views of the Rainbow's End rollercoaster - and open spaces for more flexible learning.
The institute is currently looking for tenants for a floor of the new building it will lease out.
Students of the Faculty of Business & IT and School of Logistics, which will use the building, will be expected to bring their own electronic device, with wi-fi and cloud storage provided.
Peter Quigg, MIT director of academic operations, said the development was the first of three planned phases, with more buildings planned to the west of the new building.
However, the collapse of builder Mainzeal mid-construction added $30 million to the cost, most of which MIT shouldered.
The institute had funded the project through borrowing, Mr Quigg told the Herald on a tour yesterday, and would look to grow enrollments in business and IT by 5 to 10 per cent each year.
"That growth assists immeasurably in contributing to paying that debt off...we can't cut costs anymore, so we need to grow."
MIT's 2013 annual report showed domestic student fee revenue fell below budget last year, as an improving economy made study less attractive.
But Mr Quigg said he was sure the new campus could help achieve needed growth - particularly because South Auckland had about half the national tertiary participation rates.
MIT has frozen all other capital expenditure including a planned Pasifika Centre and some maintenance funds.
Mr Quigg said those areas would be priorities for new spending, which he hoped would be possible in five to seven years.
The next two phases of the campus development could be assessed after that point, he said. Auckland Council has given MIT a 99-year peppercorn lease on the land.