By DOUG KRISTENSEN
University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor
If you want to be successful in greater Nebraska, you need to come through Kearney.
I express that often when talking about the value and importance of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and the impact education and our students have on the state’s workforce and economy.
There is substantial momentum on our campus – possibly as much as any time in our treasured history – and the next project planned for the University Village development will give businesses and organizations additional opportunity to succeed, expand, collaborate and innovate.
The planned Regional Engagement and Alumni Center will transform UNK’s 104-acre University Village development by connecting academics, government and business. It will make Nebraska better. It will make our university stronger. And it will continue to position Kearney as a portal to greater Nebraska.
The Engagement Center – currently proposed as a 45,000-square-foot facility with two levels, multiple wings, a large atrium, state-of-the-art public hearing room and breakout rooms for meetings – will serve multiple purposes.
There will be offices for public and private agencies, nonprofits and businesses, as well as technology-rich spaces to link people from across the state through virtual meetings and presentations. The building could host job fairs, campus and community events, guest lectures, public hearings, government meetings and countless other engagements.
Companies in Omaha and Lincoln may not be willing to invest in a standalone building in Kearney, but they might rent storefront property to have a presence in central Nebraska. The Engagement Center will give them that opportunity.
University Village has quickly become attractive to developers. Last year UNK opened its Village Flats residence hall, the first project in the mixed-use, urban-village development. The second project, the Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center, opens next month as the first academic building in University Village. We also are in discussions to build high-end, loft-style apartments on the property.
University Village is a win-win-win for UNK, the city of Kearney and greater Nebraska. The development will feature educational, residential, recreational, commercial and community spaces within a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood.
As we prepare to develop the Regional Engagement and Alumni Center, it’s clear that it will be the linchpin of University Village and future development. UNK’s focus and priorities are maturing from the idea stage to the execution phase.
The project is planned as a public-private partnership that utilizes private investment alongside university resources. Construction could begin as early as next summer. UNK’s Alumni Association and University of Nebraska Foundation will call the building home, and we’re enthusiastic to partner with others who have shown interest.
The Engagement Center is vital to the future success of University Village, and I am confident it will inspire more high-end construction projects and development. It will attract talented students and faculty to UNK, bring new businesses to the city and benefit employers across the region. The building will offer robust, technology-rich meeting and conference space and serve as a key gathering place in central and western Nebraska.
UNK takes seriously its role of preparing students for the workforce. We also are sincere and deliberate about helping companies collaborate and succeed.
The UNK Regional Engagement and Alumni Center will elevate the university and our partners. It will inspire and connect visionaries in Kearney and across our great state in meaningful and impactful ways.
I firmly believe that success for greater Nebraska can come through the halls of this transformational Regional Engagement and Alumni Center.