Ryman Healthcare is planning to convert Victoria University of Wellington’s former Karori campus into a new retirement village.

Ryman bought the site which will be converted into a retirement village with independent and serviced apartments and a care centre.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have secured this site for the retired people of Wellington. It is an iconic site in the city’s largest suburb, and we’re pleased it will continue to be a significant community asset for the city,” Ryman Group Development Manager Andrew Mitchell said.

Victoria’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford is similarly pleased with the outcome.

“We have listened to a wide range of varying views about what should happen to our former campus. The divestment process has provided all parties, whether they are public, community or private, to put forward the most practical, beneficial and realisable options for future use of the campus land and buildings. On balance, we believe Ryman Healthcare has the community focus, professionalism, experience and resources to make the best use of the campus land and buildings.”

Ryman plans to convert the campus into a retirement village offering independent and serviced apartment living options as well as hospital, rest home and dementia-level care.

This continuum of care – where residents are cared for as their health needs change over time – has been the basis of Ryman’s model for more than 30 years.

Mitchell said he expected considerable interest from the community in plans for the site and the Ryman team would be consulting widely with local people, community groups, Heritage New Zealand and local Iwi.

“Ryman is not a property developer, our villages become an integral part of the local community over the long term, providing a safe living environment for residents, as well as other social, economic and employment benefits for many people throughout the community. It is important to us that we build strong, ongoing relationships with the community and we are committed to work in with them.”

The Karori campus was built to cope with the large numbers of ‘baby boomers’ in tertiary education in the 1960s.

“We think it could be a great quirk of history if a site that was built for the baby boomers could now be converted into a community asset for them. We think they deserve to be able to remain in the communities they helped create as they age and their health needs change, rather than having to move to find appropriate care,” Mitchell said.

Wellington has an ageing population in line with the rest of New Zealand. The number of people aged over 75 is set to more than double in the next 30 years. The site appealed because of the shortage of care in the area.

“Demand is going to grow for retirement living options and Karori is an area we’ve identified as having an urgent need for care, and dementia care in particular.”

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