Victoria University to put Karori campus land and buildings on open market

Victoria University's Karori Campus, the site of the former teachers' college.
CAMERON BURNELL/ STUFF

Victoria University's Karori Campus, the site of the former teachers' college.

Victoria University has started a process to sell its Karori campus land and buildings in Wellington on the open market.

A note sent out on Monday says that, given the wide range of parties interested in the campus, a market process was the best way to identify the best options for its use.

In an email, the university's director of property services, Stephen Costley, said there was a range of possible outcomes from the process, including there being multiple purchasers.

The 3.7-hectare Karori campus site in Wellington has tennis courts, pools, a hall, music suites, a gymnasium and classrooms.
CAMERON BURNELL/ STUFF

The 3.7-hectare Karori campus site in Wellington has tennis courts, pools, a hall, music suites, a gymnasium and classrooms.

The university had been in talks with the Ministry of Education about selling some of the land through the Public Works Act.

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In March, the ministry's Wellington director for education, Suze Strowger, told a public meeting it would only buy the land for the "right" price.

The former campus will be sold on the open market.
CAMERON BURNELL/ STUFF

The former campus will be sold on the open market.

Wellington City Council also had first bite at the property under the same act, but expressed interest only in the car park next to the Karori swimming pool.

City councillor Andy Foster said he had been in touch with the Ministry of Education on Monday, and was told it had made an offer to the university in the past few days, but they could not reach an agreement. 

He understood the university would go to market to see what it could potentially get for the site, and then go back to the ministry to negotiate. 

"Obviously there's a price issue ... given the university got the land for nothing, it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth." 

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​In 2014 the land was transferred to the university for $10. Last year university chief operating officer Mark Loveard said that, under the Public Works Act, the sell-back price should be at market value.

The council was working on a plan that could end up with all the campus's buildings occupied. There had been significant commercial and community interest in the buildings, Foster said. 

"The buildings are in good nick, they're seismically strong and well designed. We've had interest from a wide range of organisations who would pay commercial rents on those places. We think it is doable." 

That would be much better for the city than another purely residential development on the site, Foster said. 

Karori Campus group spokesman Richard Bentley said he had spoken to someone at the ministry, and had also been told negotiations had stalled due to a failure to agree to a price between the ministry and the university. 

He was told the fact the campus was going on the market did not mean the ministry had pulled back from plans to build a technology hub. 

Councillor Diane Calvert said she was surprised the university had put the campus on the market, but said the council was still working on putting together a deal to keep some community facilities for the suburb's residents. 

The council would need to reconsider its position and approach following Monday's news. 

Costley said the market process for the sale of the land and buildings would be in two stages, each taking about six weeks.

According to a post on the Victoria University website, land that was excluded from the sale included two early childhood centres, which would be transferred to the Ministry of Education, as well as a number of properties that had been bought by former owners or their successors under the Public Works Act.

Several other properties that were either not taken up in the offer-back process, or did not have to be offered back, would be sold individually.

The swimming pool car park would be transferred to the council.

It was recognised the main campus site had heritage values that needed to be protected, and the best way to do that was being considered by Heritage NZ.

The university encouraged any parties, including central and local government, iwi, community groups and private sector organisations, to contact the university's agents.

Last week, Wellington City Council confirmed it was looking for a way it could broker a deal with the university to keep some of the facilities on the site available for community use.

At the time Calvert said she was "50-50" as to whether she thought some of the facilities would stay available for Karori residents to use.

Victoria University and the Ministry of Education both declined to comment. 

 - Stuff

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