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Source: Massey University

The Refectory building in the 1960s.

Work is under way to restore Massey University’s historic Refectory building at the Manawatū campus.

The University has signed a contract with Wellington-based construction firm LT McGuinness and work is expected to be completed by April next year.

Built in 1931 in the same era as the Sir Geoffrey Peren building, which was restored and reopened in 2015, the Refectory was the original dining hall and social space shared by staff and students. It was converted into teaching space when a larger dining hall was opened for the growing student population. The building, which has category two status on the New Zealand Heritage List, has been empty for several years as it needs seismic strengthening as part of the multi-million dollar restoration.

Both buildings were designed in the Spanish mission style by noted architect Roy Lippincott and built by Fletcher Construction. Funding for the restoration is being shared by the University and supported by public fundraising by the Massey University Foundation, which has so far raised $3.2 million, with a target of a further $400,000.

The Lotteries Commission has pledged $700,000, the Central Energy Trust $500,000, the Palmerston North City Council $150,000 and there have been significant private donations from individuals and families.

Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says it is important to preserve the history of the University and she is delighted to have a completion date in sight for a building that meant so much to many of Massey’s former students and staff. “This project has proved challenging and it is a tribute to the dedication of the staff and supporters who have backed it that we have now reached the home stretch.”

Foundation director of development Mitch Murdoch said the generosity of numerous donors over several years had been remarkable. “So many of those who worked and studied here are extremely passionate about Refectory and our other heritage precinct buildings,” she says.

When the city council pledged $150,000 to the project three years ago, Mayor Grant Smith described the building as an iconic asset for the city and wider region as well as Massey. It would become part of the Palmerston North City Heritage Trail, he said.

To contact the Massey University Foundation for more information or to support the restoration project fund please phone 06 951 6597 or go online to make a donation.

The restoration of the Refectory building is due begin this year.