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September 22, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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Campus Redevelopment

Earlier this year, Salient reported on progress being made by Victoria University in implementing the Campus Development Framework (CDF). So far, there’s an almost finished hall of residence perched above Boyd Wilson Field, and there’s a gaping hole between Cotton and Laby where something used to be. But what’s next for the Kelburn campus’ extreme makeover?

It’s been said many-a-time, by a significant number of important people, including fancy-pants architects: the Kelburn campus is ugly. Even I didn’t need to slave away at uni for five years to be qualified enough to tell you that. But the spruce up is underway and thank god for the jewel in the CDF’s crown – the so-called Campus Hub Redevelopment.

In a nutshell, the Campus Hub Redevelopment will destroy the Quad as we currently know it, and transform it into the “social heart” of the campus. Along with the development of the Quad area, the out-dated retro-reminiscent library and the dysfunctional Student Union Building (SUB) will be treated to a makeover too.

The Campus Hub Redevelopment has been in the pipeline for a couple of years now. A 2005 review conducted by Victoria showed that it was “lagging behind” other tertiary institutions in meeting the needs and expectations of students. In response, the CDF was born. The CDF – a 10-year plan for campus development – was released in 2006 and outlined a number of significant building projects, including the Campus Hub.

So what change is in store for the concrete monstrosity that is currently the Quad? Like all beauty treatments, improvements won’t happen overnight, but they will happen. Over the next eight years, the plan is to get in some massive machinery to excavate the Quad – instead of being two flights of steps above the driveway, the Quad will be dropped down to the same level. This is no minor task – there’s a heck of a lot of concrete to remove. But for those of you unfamiliar with the complexities of excavating (my dad is a rural contractor, I feel I’m sufficiently qualified to explain): quite simply, big trucks and diggers are going to come in and smash up the ugly old Quad and take the remains away. Hooray!

The end result of this extensive cosmetic work, after some touchups and landscaping, will be a nice flat central area that will improve pedestrian flow and connections between the library, SUB and the Kelburn Parade entry by Easterfield. The area formerly known as the Quad will be enclosed to create a central “Hub” which will be developed as a space for socialising and study, complete with comfy couches and big TV screens. There is also the potential for retail development in the Hub, including space for cafes and bars, and essential retailers like book and computer stores, Student Notes, banking, and postal services.

As part of the Campus Hub Redevelopment, the library will get a revamp to bring it up to speed with all the latest international trends and fashions in library development and design. This will include new social and study spaces. Over the summer trimester, the fourth floor of the library will become a testing ground for different social spaces, furniture and facilities that students will be encouraged to make use of, and provide feedback about what best suits their needs.

The Student Trust has been heavily involved in the planning stages of the Campus Hub project, to ensure that the best design and development decisions are made on behalf of students. Providing that students give their formal approval to the project at an AGM in March next year, the Trust is prepared to make a significant financial contribution to the tune of up to $12 million for the project.

The SUB was originally left out of the Campus Hub plans, but following the input of the Student Trust, the idea was floated to upgrade and reinvigorate the SUB as part of the redevelopment project. It is proposed that Mount Street Bar and Café will be turned into a Clubs and Societies space, complete with meeting rooms, offices and secure storage facilities. A Representative group space will be developed, and the Union Hall will be transformed into a “relaxing social area,” complete with café and bar, and couches. The acoustics in the Union Hall will also be improved, making it a more ideal venue for live music and other functions.

Alistair Shaw, from the Student Trust, said that they don’t want it to seem like the redevelopment project is being thrust on students. The Trust emphasises that students must be in direct control of student spaces, like the Clubs area. Consultation between the Trust and Clubs and Representative groups on the final layout and design of the space starts this week. Students and staff are encouraged to give feedback on all aspects of the project, to ensure that the development and design is in line with student and staff expectations.

The University has welcomed the involvement of the Student Trust in the Campus Hub Redevelopment project. “It is great for the University to work in partnership with the Student Trust as it will ensure a really good outcome for current and future students,” Director of Facilities Management Jenny Bentley said. “The Trust’s involvement will also ensure a wider range of facilities to be developed more quickly,” she added.

The Student Trust and VUWSA have been involved since the early stages of planning for the Campus Hub, Bentley said, resulting in greater engagement with students in the design and development of the project. “In addition the Trust itself has facilitated student engagement and recently consultation which will ensure the design of the Hub will meet the needs of students.”

So what’s the next step? The University Council has already endorsed the overall Hub concept, however, Bentley said that the funding for the proposed work programme will need to be given approval each year. “As we move through the design process, approval will be sought for major elements,” she said. Once the Student Trust has a formal mandate from students, it can continue to support the planning and development phases of the project and contribute funding.

Students are encouraged to give feedback on the designs, test some of the new facilities, and be involved in Club and Rep group workshops. You can check out the website www.campushub.co.nz for more information, and to see lots of before and after pictures. It’s kind of like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, without the sob story and the annoying American guy. Bring on the comfy couches and big TV screens.

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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

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