Big plans at Unitec

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS ETHERIDGE

AN AM­BI­TIOUS new pro­posal could breathe fresh life into the for­mer Car­ring­ton Psy­chi­atric Hospi­tal now owned by Unitec in Mt Al­bert.

Unitec has put a 53.5ha chunk of its land up for de­vel­op­ment that in­cludes a fa­mil­iar clus­ter of his­toric Vic­to­rian brick build­ings.

Pub­lic space and medium den­sity hous­ing are just some of the ideas mooted in its broader plans for an ‘‘ed­u­ca­tion hub’’ and her­itage precinct around the old hospi­tal that was built in 1865.

The hospi­tal was closed in Fe­bru­ary 1993 and sold by the Auck­land Area Health Board to Unitec.

But the build­ings are not earthquake proof to mod­ern stan­dards and there­fore no good for ‘‘mod­ern teach­ing meth­ods and tech­nol­ogy’’, Unitec chief ex­ec­u­tive Rick Ede says.

Al­ter­na­tive uses up for dis­cus­sion in­clude the pos­si­ble con­ver­sion of the old build­ings into apart­ments.

The sug­ges­tions all form part of a Unitec sub­mis­sion to the draft Uni­tary Plan – a blue­print for de­vel­op­ment across the greater Auck­land re­gion over the next 30 years.

Unitec’s 64.5ha site is a des­ig­nated zone for ed­u­ca­tional and health pur­poses and Ede says a zon­ing change would be needed to en­able its long-term ‘‘property strat­egy’’.

He says mod­ern build­ings on a more com­pact Mt Al­bert cam­pus would al­low the in­sti­tute to op­er­ate more ef­fec­tively. Unitec has about 20,000 stu­dents across its three cam­puses.

A Concentrix and IBM De­liv­ery Cen­tre at the Mt Al­bert cam­pus em­ploys more than 200 stu­dents.

Ede hopes the pro­posed zon­ing change would also en­tice more businesses there.

Unitec’s in­ten­tion to of­fer up the land un­der the Uni­tary Plan has been ‘‘out there for some time now’’ and Ede says it has al­ready spo­ken to some schools, res­i­dents and busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tions about its ideas.

A com­mu­nity li­ai­son group with lo­cal res­i­den­tial and busi­ness stake­hold­ers is be­ing cre­ated.

‘‘There’s no set num­ber of houses that we’re propos­ing and there’s noth­ing out there that’s say­ing ‘we think it’s go­ing to look like this and here’s the mas­ter plan’.

‘‘This is to try and cre­ate a sense of what we think a great place in Auck­land could look like that has mul­ti­ple wins for the com­mu­nity.’’

The pro­posal in­cludes im­proved con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Mt Al­bert and Pt Chevalier town cen­tres, which are both sched­uled for re­ju­ve­na­tion.

Ede says chang­ing how Unitec uses the space and build­ings will save money that can be rerouted into ed­u­ca­tion. Unitec is in the Al­bert-Eden Lo­cal Board area, which sorely lacks open space.

There is just 2.9ha of open area for ev­ery 1000 res­i­dents, chair­man Peter Haynes says.

The Oak­ley Creek walk­way and wa­ter­fall are be­hind Unitec and Ede says the in­ten­tion is to make them more ac­ces­si­ble.

Unitec’s Dar­ren Hors­man says pub­lic meet­ings may be held in the fu­ture.

Go­ing green: An artist’s im­pres­sion of Unitec’s pro­posal.

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