UNK Facilities Plan Takes Center Stage

Curt Carlson

When Chancellor Doug Kristensen presented the Facilities Development Plan at the January Board of Regents meeting in Lincoln, he told the board, “UNK is very good at what it does, and that’s teaching and providing an environment for learning. We now have an opportunity to be great at that. A facilities development strategy,” he said, “prepares us for the next step to move forward.”

His presentation described how the current campus has evolved, and outlined major development possibilities over the next 10 years. He further explained the plan’s four major foci : 1) residential renewal 2) academic infrastructure renewal 3) environmental enhancement and 4) opportunities represented by UNK’s ownership of two large, undeveloped tracts of farmland south and west of campus.

The new vision for campus development was shaped, in part, by forums that were held over a period of several months in fall 2006. More than 250 people participated in that dialogue, from which a number of common themes emerged: the need to enhance existing buildings, a desire to improve campus aesthetics, a wish to make the campus more “people friendly,” especially for visitors, a general concern about traffic safety on streets adjacent to campus, parking capacity, outdated buildings, student housing concerns and the need for campus wellness facilities.

Chancellor Kristensen emphasized what he called “our greatest potential at this point for campus development in coming years” referring to two properties UNK owns along Highway 30. One is directly south of the West Center. The other is a mile to the west, or just south of the Rolling Hills Subdivision.

The west property alone, at 242 acres, comprises nearly one-half (49.1 percent) of the total land owned by UNK. The south property, at 103 acres, is nearly as large as the main UNK campus, which is 128 acres.

The south property has been owned by the university longer than the west property, and ideas about its uses are more developed. Because of its proximity to the main campus, according to the Facilities Plan: “It has the potential to be developed for multiple uses, ranging from recreation and athletic spaces (tennis courts, softball and baseball fields, and track), to campus housing, to enhancement of the adjacent Nebraska Safety Center,” which is a component of the UNK College of Business and Technology. Safety concerns associated with foot traffic across busy Highway 30 have discouraged expansion of academic functions onto this property.

With respect to the west property, the Chancellor emphasized that significant further study will be necessary in order to identify appropriate uses.

“Such uses,” he said, “will be consistent with the mission of the University and approved by the Regents in the University’s normal processes.”

Elaborating further, he noted that projects advancing UNK’s mission in the following ways will be of special interest:

  • Financial benefit to UNK.
  • No cost or very low cost to UNK, combined with appreciable, enhancement of university interests.
  • Availability of student internships or employment, especially if relevant to programs of study.
  • Opportunities for UNK faculty to apply their expertise for research and scholarship in the partnership enterprise.
  • Opportunities to use partner expertise in UNK academic programs.

Chancellor Kristensen also reviewed development possibilities on UNK’s main campus, including projects that are already underway (three new residence halls and associated landscaping) or soon-to-be started (Bruner Hall renovation and centralization of UNK’s heating/cooling infrastructure). He noted that earlier plans for Otto Olsen have been revised, and a new building will be planned on a process that will be underway soon. Site options for new academic facilities are limited on main campus, but the softball fields at the western edge of campus and the open area along Highway 30 next to the College of Education might provide suitable locations if new construction opportunities arise.