Auckland Uni buys Lion site, sold to Abu Dhabi-led group for $162m in 2007

The 5.2ha property in Newmarket was bought back from property developers two years ago by Lion Breweries.

University of Auckland has conditionally agreed to buy a 5.2ha property in Newmarket that Lion Breweries bought back from property developers two years ago, saying the site could meet its expansion needs for years.

The university estimates that to cope with its growth it needs to build or acquire additional space at a rate of 6000sq m a year "for the foreseeable future".

The institution plans to consolidate its academic activities at its city and Grafton campuses, though these would only cope with 10-15 years of growth, vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon says.

No price was given in the lease and a spokeswoman for the university was not immediately available.

The site is owned by Great Northern Developments, which had planned a multi-use construction project including apartments. Great Northern was a venture between AMP Capital NZ and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

They had agreed to pay Lion $162 million for the site in 2007 before the global financial crisis dried up credit and had made an initial deposit of $50 million, NBR reported at the time. AMP Capital subsequently wrote off its share of the project.

"The Newmarket site provides a significant opportunity for the University to manage its growth requirements over the next 50 years," Mr McCutcheon says.

If the sale is finalised, the university plans to use the site for a mixed-use campus, with teaching and research facilities, student accommodation and business development.

The deal would also herald the closure of the Tamaki Campus "in part or whole in order to rationalise its campus holdings both to help pay for, and maximise the benefits, of the new site", Mr McCutcheon says.

The university is doing due diligence on the site and a decision on whether to go unconditional will be made at the April 2013 meeting of the university's council meeting.

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