Unitec puts historic block up for sale

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 20/06/2014
artistic impression

GOING GREEN: An artist’s impression of Unitec’s proposal.

Unitec chief
BIG MOVE: Unitec chief executive Rick Ede says a zoning change for 53.5 hectares of the institute’s land in Mt Albert could mean more public space and housing in the future.

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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. Email unitecfuture@unitec.ac.nz to get involved. Go to unitec.ac.nz/futurecampus to read more on Unitec's proposal.

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