Unitech’s new ‘Uni-City’ development to get underway next year, says Vice-Chancellor

A new development on the Papua New Guinea University of Technology’s campus in Lae will give PNG’s second city its first shopping mall. Vice-Chancellor Dr Albert Schram tells Business Advantage PNG the plan includes housing, shops, banks and business offices.

The concept is not new, says Schram. It has been successfully developed elsewhere in the world, as universities seek ways to become more self-sufficient.

‘Successive governments have told Unitech and the University of PNG (in Port Moresby) that we are a land-rich university and we are only using 10–20 per cent of the land for academic purposes, so what will you do with the rest?’

Unitech Vice-Chancellor, Dr Albert Schram. Credit: PNGFacts

The previous administration had drafted a plan, but it wasn’t quite right, he tells Business Advantage PNG (citing the concept of a lake with sailing boats in the middle of the campus). So Dr Schram contacted Australian architect Paul Walter, whose company had redesigned the campus of the University of Western Sydney.

‘We have 220 hectares of land, so there is more than enough land.’

‘We engaged them to produce a masterplan which was finally approved by our Council in December, 2015.’

The masterplan maps out the zoning of the campus and the process to achieve this.

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The campus would contain three zones. The northern area will be residential, the middle will be the academic centre and student village, and the southern area will be the commercial area.

Commercial centre

‘We have 220 hectares of land, so there is more than enough land. The commercial area would be about 10-15 hectares and you can fit all the functions of a small town there.

‘Now, we have these functions on our campus already. We have a supermarket, a bank, a clinic, a stationery shop, but they are designed only for our students. So, the idea is to move all those from the academic centre and put them in their own area.’

Map of Lae showing location of Unitech

 

Schram says the commercial concept offers something that Lae doesn’t have yet: a shopping mall. By having different businesses developing their commercial activities in the same place, the area will become more attractive to customers.

‘This will be combined with high-end residential housing and office space,’ he says. ‘So you really have a small town.’

Power self-sufficiency

One of the attractions will be a continuous, uninterrupted power supply, he says. ‘We want to be self-sufficient in electricity, so we want to build a large solar power plant.

‘We also have broadband and Wi-Fi all over the campus and this will also cover Uni-City.’

‘There is no other large tract of land in Lae available for development.’

Schram says the plan is to offer participants a 21-year, renewable lease.

‘This is a new concept for some people and, while they would prefer a land title, we cannot offer that at the moment.’

Funding

Schram has also begun negotiations with the investment officers from institutional funds in PNG to fund the development.

‘They consider us a serious player,’ he says. ‘And there is no other large tract of land in Lae available for development.’

Schram has also applied to the Australian Government’s PNG Australian Incentive Fund, which ‘provides opportunities for a wide range of high performing organisations to compete for direct funding for development projects’.

‘The market area will be the starting point and provide a very attractive area for retail.’

He wants funding to move the fresh food market into what will be the first phase in developing the commercial zone. However, because Unitech had not been able to record two sequential ‘unqualified audits’, any decision has been deferred.

He expects to have those two clean audits by next year, and will look for funding approval to move the market and to build a road to the new market location.

‘The market area will be the starting point and will provide a very attractive area for retail and other investors.’

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