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By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – The highly anticipated remodeling of UNK’s Nebraskan Student Union begins soon and comes with the recent closing of two restaurants and a coffee shop that were operating.
Rustic Range, Lantern and The Living Room closed permanently last week to make way for construction of a new Chick-fil-A and full-scale Starbucks, which are expected to open in summer 2018.
Students and other visitors will notice several changes and share Student Union space with construction crews over the next six months. Demolition and construction is planned to start Dec. 7, said Scott Benson, director of business services at University of Nebraska at Kearney.
The project is large enough it could not be completed within summer break,” said Benson. “We decided to get the project started as soon as possible so students would have access to brand name locations they have been requesting as soon as they return in the fall semester.”
In addition to new dining options, the $6 million renovation project will give the 55-year-old building new interior finishes and furniture, create more open spaces and improve HVAC, lighting and sewer systems. The current Living Room coffee shop is being converted into a student lounge, complete with fireplace and soft seating.
The food court is a primary space in the Union, and the building also houses the Antelope Bookstore, meeting spaces and ballroom, and offices for Multi-Cultural Affairs, Student Engagement, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Student Government.
The second phase of the Student Union renovation begins later this spring and includes demolition of the remaining food court and seating areas. The entire project will be complete when classes start in fall 2018.
All restaurants and stores inside the Nebraskan are open to the public.
UNK is extending hours of other dining and beverage locations across campus, such as the Fine Arts Building coffee shop and Boost Market convenience store, to give students as many options as possible to use their meal plan dollars. The other national food chain currently in the Union is Subway, which will remain open during construction.
“With new meal plans this year, students have more dining dollars to spend at UNK’s retail locations,” Benson said. “It is imperative we minimize downtime and keep locations such as Subway and Boost accessible during construction.”
In March, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved plans for the multi-phase remodel. Regents will be asked to approve an intermediate design report at their Dec. 5 meeting, the final step needed for work to begin.