Home > About > News > $80m plan for Cuba campus

$80m plan for Cuba campus

11 June 2014. Source: Fairfax NZ News
Dixon perspective

A new $80 million campus in the heart of Wellington will host more than 1000 fulltime students on arts and creative technology courses.

Work on the joint venture between Whitireia and WelTec polytechnics is expected to begin next year at the old Deka building site on the corner of Cuba and Dixon streets, with the aim of opening in 2018.

The centre would bring together programmes such as the New Zealand Film and Television School, the Whitireia Performing Arts Centre, the New Zealand Radio Training School and programmes including journalism, creative writing, digital media production and animation, Maori arts, event management and photography.

The goal of having more than 1000 fulltime students is based on a "conservative" 15 per cent growth in arts and technologies students over five years among domestic students, and an additional 50 international placements.

Willis Bond & Co is developing the site, at a cost of $60m, while the polytechs would fit out the building for $20m.

The site would be leased to the polytechs, and several shops on the Cuba St side would also be available for tenants.

Willis Bond & Co managing director Mark McGuinness said the project was the first large-scale tertiary education development the company had taken on.

The site would be completely redeveloped and, in time, the Farmers building next door, which the company also owns, would get a makeover.

"The important thing is we want to maintain that Cuba St feeling."

The building would consist of six floors, with the design incorporating the existing Deka facade.

The floor area would be about 9000 square metres and would include a dance studio and performance space for theatre and stage, a 250-seat theatre, control-mixing rooms for radio, salons, darkrooms and workshops.

Whitireia chief executive Don Campbell said part of the finer detail of the centre could include a bar being built at the theatre to allow hospitality students to get hands-on experience.

A lot of research had been done overseas looking at similar models, including a centre in Liverpool of which Sir Paul McCartney was patron.

"It was reassuring to see something like what we're trying to achieve operating overseas and working well."

Both Campbell and WelTec chief executive Linda Sissons expected student enrolments to increase significantly when the centre opened, particularly from the international market.

The design of the building allowed for an accessway between Cuba and Victoria streets that would mean the public could watch students at work.

"Watching someone make an art installation would be just as exciting as going along and watching the theatre," Sissons said.

Arts and Culture Minister Chris Finlayson and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown both welcomed the project and the benefits it would offer students in the capital.

"It'll be great to see this heritage building - a cornerstone of the Cuba precinct - become a state-of-the-art facility," Wade-Brown said.