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University of Otago to construct new $150 million building

University of Otago to construct new $150 million building in Christchurch

The University of Otago has announced plans to construct a new state-of-the-art building to expand its Christchurch campus, making an important contribution to the Health Precinct as part of the city’s rebuild.

The six-storey building is estimated to be in the order of $150 million, and will be the biggest ever construction project the University has undertaken. The University aims to complete the new building on Oxford Terrace by 2022 - in time for the 50th anniversary of the University of Otago, Christchurch campus. It will then redevelop the campus’ existing eight-storey Riccarton Road building on the Christchurch Hospital campus.

University of Otago Vice Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says the new building will enable the growth of the Christchurch campus’ world-class health science research and education programmes and it will provide new opportunities for collaboration with other important partners in the Health Precinct.

“We have had a very successful health science campus in Christchurch for 45 years. This investment shows our commitment to the campus, to the Health Precinct, and to the city’s rebuild,’’ Professor Hayne says.

The University of Otago’s Christchurch campus is a training base for medical students in their three clinical years. It is also a highly research-intensive campus, hosting a number of world-class research groups and postgraduate health science students. There are currently more than 1000 students studying at the Christchurch campus.

The University of Otago purchased the former Tillman’s furniture store site in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes. This investment was earmarked as the University of Otago’s contribution to the rebuild of the city. The University has been considering options for the Christchurch campus for several years, and more recently a substantial business case has been finalised. This week its Council voted to approve the business case’s recommendations and move the Christchurch building project beyond the current concept design stage. This phase is where the cost and design of the building will be firmed up. The new ‘Oxford’ building will be on Oxford Terrace on the former Tillman’s site.

Professor Hayne says the new building will house the campus’ laboratories and most of its health research groups. It will also house specialist radiology equipment such as the MARS scanner, co-invented by a University of Otago, Christchurch Professor, and MRI machines for studying neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. This building will also be home to groups commercialising their health science discoveries, such as Upstream Medical Technologies who develop and market tests to speed up the diagnosis of heart conditions.

University of Otago Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Willis, says in addition to providing long-term growth for the University the new building will finally enable the collocation of a number of University departments currently dispersed around Christchurch. The opportunity to collocate these into the Te Papa Hauora/Health Precinct is a move that will strengthen the Precinct immensely.

When the new building is completed, the existing ‘Riccarton’ building will be used primarily for teaching activities and clinical research projects involving Christchurch Hospital staff and patients.

Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, Professor David Murdoch, says the new building will create a true campus feel for staff and students, with the Oxford and Riccarton buildings less than a minute’s walk from each other.

Importantly, the campus’ new building will be a central part of Te Papa Hauora/Health Precinct and enable greater collaboration with other organisations in the Precinct, Professor Murdoch says.

The new building will contain a café / social space and smaller meeting areas where staff and students can talk and collaborate on research ideas. It will also have an adaptable lecture theatre for public events, and to bring staff and students together for learning and collaboration.

The new building in Christchurch is part of an almost half-a-billion-dollars-worth of construction projects the University has under way or recently completed. Professor Hayne says this investment - the single largest construction phase of the University’s history –will benefit New Zealand’s communities and economy.

“Our strategic intention is to have the best students, staff and facilities, which in turn makes us one of the finest Universities in the world. These facilities will provide state-of-the-art facilities for our students, who are the lifeblood of our University, and the workforce and leaders of tomorrow,’ says Professor Hayne.

The University is well under way with a $130 million project to rebuild and expand New Zealand’s national dentistry school in Dunedin. It also this month announced a new dental facility for Counties-Manukau in Auckland, the first time the University will have a bespoke health science teaching facility in that city.

Other major building projects under way include a new Research Support Facility in Dunedin, and a new Music and Theatre centre combined with refurbishing many of the University’s College of Education buildings in Dunedin, with a budgeted cost of $26 million.

The University has also completed three extensive refurbishments in the past year on the Dunedin campus: A Science building (now called Mellor Laboratories), the Commerce Building (now the Otago Business School) and the St David II office building.

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