Massey dreams of retail centre

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 13/03/2014

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Massey University wants the Palmerston North City Council to lighten up on rules restricting development of shops and offices at the Turitea and Hokowhitu campuses.

It wants flexibility to create up to 5000 square metres of office space at Hokowhitu, the equivalent of two buildings, and 2000sq m of shops at Turitea - the size of a small suburban shopping centre.

Assistant vice chancellor for operations Stuart Morriss said Massey made a huge contribution to the city's economy, and was looking to double staff numbers at the Turitea "super campus".

It was working with the city council and research facilities to develop Food HQ - planned to be the largest food innovation hub in the southern hemisphere.

It wanted to have the ability to provide office space for businesses that wanted to locate nearby, and provide retail facilities that would help provide an attractive environment for staff.

Council policy planner Michael Duindam said the amount of office and retail space the university wanted to develop could detract from the central business district.

Retail consultant for the council Mark Tansley said Massey had earlier asked for 1200sq m of shops which "was on the edge of credibility". Along with food and beverage outlets and commercial services already allowed, it could add up to a shopping centre as large as 4000sq m.

Valuer Bryan White said the amount of office development sought could satisfy the growth in demand for space for the whole city for several years.

"It's going to be a significant competitor to the existing central business zone."

But Mr Morriss said the restrictions wanted by council planners would make it more difficult for Massey to develop Food HQ and grow its business.

It would need sufficient retail facilities to provide the world-class environment expected by the calibre of people it wanted to attract.

Massey's economics consultant Greg Akehurst said allowing the university's development, along with shops and offices, would help achieve the council's own objective of "attracting, fostering and retaining businesses because of the creativity and innovation of its education, research and knowledge base".

He said the offices would make up less than 2 per cent of the city's office space, and the location was likely to attract new businesses rather than cause an exodus out of the central city.

Massey University is looking to sell the Hokowhitu campus.

Mr Duindam said he believed the District Plan provided scope for Massey's aspirations.

The proposed changes to institutional zone rules and the submissions were heard yesterday by Resource Management commissioners Chris Mitchell, Stuart Kinnear and Annette Nixon.

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