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By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Work is scheduled to begin Monday (May 20) on a three-month project that will enhance the east side of the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus and create a more welcoming entrance for students, staff and visitors.
Phase 2 of the “east gateway” project, outlined in the 2006-15 campus master plan, includes several changes designed to make the area near Warner Hall more prominent, spacious, accessible and pedestrian-friendly.
“We’re developing the southeast corner of campus as a destination,” said Lee McQueen, director of UNK Facilities Management and Planning. “It will be a grand improvement.”
Viewed as a “front door” to campus, UNK will project that image by creating a memorable arrival experience for visitors. The planned improvements include:
- creating a circular drop-off/pick-up area and adding a landscaped center median on Ninth Avenue in front of Warner Hall
- installing decorative pillars on both sides of West 25th Street entering campus and three flag poles in front of Warner Hall
- adding a UNK identity wall – matching the one along Highway 30 on the west side of campus – to the island between the highway and West 25th Street
- creating pedestrian pathways
- installing a 4-feet-tall wrought iron fence with UNK emblems along the southeast corner of campus
- new landscaping throughout the area
- a separate project will widen the sidewalk along the southeast edge of campus and move it farther from the highway
The current “information kiosk” will be replaced by a new welcome area northeast of Warner Hall featuring seating, a campus wayfinding map and the relocated historical marker and arboretum sign.
To create an open view of campus and Warner Hall – where the admissions office will eventually be located – the decorative walls and concrete columns on the east side of the building will be removed.
Because they’re a piece of UNK’s history – portions of the columns are original to the first administration building completed in 1904 – the capitals and bases will be preserved to display on campus.
“There will be a variety of opportunities to consider for those pieces,” McQueen said.
Portions of the columns were also preserved when the administration building, known as “Old Main” and the “Mickey Building,” was razed in 1984.
Jane and Dr. L.R. Smith provided funding to create an entryway for the new administration building – known then as Founders Hall – using the columns. The entryway was dedicated in 1987.
The east gateway project, awarded to Morten Construction of Kearney at a cost of $946,431, is scheduled for completion in mid-August, weather permitting. Some landscaping will continue into the fall semester so planting can occur during cooler weather.
Funding for the project was approved in May 2017, prior to universitywide budget cuts resulting from decreased legislative appropriations. That funding was allocated for construction and also paid for improvements to the sidewalks, entry ramp and lighting outside Warner Hall.