Plans progress for new University Village development south of UNK campus

Central Greenspace Rendering Web
Photos courtesy of HDR Engineering


FLIP BOOK: A “flip book” highlighting the University Village development can be viewed at:

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney has completed the planning stage for development of the 104-acre site now known as University Village – a new campus that will combine public and private resources in a mix of business, retail, office, services, housing, parks and recreation.

Grand Vista WebThe development is planned for an area south of The Buckle headquarters and southwest of UNK’s campus on the south side of Highway 30.

With initial planning complete and preliminary designs crafted, UNK will begin working to develop and build infrastructure including roads and utilities, begin planning the first university projects for the campus, and seek developers to lead and invest in private, commercial construction projects at the new campus.

A series of public and informational meetings will be planned to obtain input on the proposed plans, culminating with a formal information session for developers in June.

Site construction could begin as soon as 2015, with the first university building planned for 2017. Designed as a village that can grow as needed, the project could take as many as 20 years to be fully complete – depending on demand for housing, Kearney’s growth, and UNK’s growth.

Called previously “south campus,” the name University Village has been adopted, to signify that the development is not only a site for university business – including residences, offices, recreation and services – but a site for private businesses: apartments, townhomes, single-family homes, offices, even possibly corporate headquarters.

As a “village,” it’s planned as a mixed-use community within Kearney – a large neighborhood that mixes a university campus with community living and services, said Barbara Johnson, vice chancellor for business and finance at UNK.

“After months of planning we are now at the point of sharing these plans and ideas with the campus and community,” Johnson said. “In order to complete a new residence hall at University Village by 2017, we need to formalize agreements with the City of Kearney and other entities to construct the main connecting street north and south, develop additional infrastructure, and plan for shared needs on the south side of the site.”

Johnson refers to a replacement of the University Heights facility, (apartment complex at 1701 W. 35th St., for families and older single full-time students), which because of its age and distance from campus has been scheduled for replacement.

Johnson said the second university building planned at University Village is a new early childhood education center. The current childcare facility on campus is in the Otto Olsen building. A new, larger, modern child-development facility will help better serve the needs of UNK faculty, staff and students, she said.

Other projects conceptualized in the preliminary plat plans include:

  • Retail core
  • Main street
  • Park
  • Private housing: Cottage homes, townhouses, patio homes, apartments,
  • Student townhouses, Greek housing, student apartments
  • Parking structures
  • Commons, central greenspace and other greenspaces; a wetland/ponds
  • Recreation complexes: softball, tennis courts

The project plan envisions University Drive from the north being re-located about a half-block east to accommodate a central entrance into the village. Johnson said discussions with the city and the state Department of Roads are continuing while traffic configurations are considered on Highway 30. Pedestrian crossing of U.S. Highway 30’s four lanes has been a topic for discussion.

The process, beginning in 2012, included a site inventory and analysis, input from a community advisory group, a market study (Friedman and Associates, Chicago), and a weeklong iterative design charrette (collaborate sessions for brainstorming and developing design solutions) facilitated by HDR Inc.

Johnson said the comprehensive and in-depth planning exercise merged the three components of the vision of the community and campus, the potential of the site, and the realistic opportunities identified in the market study into a plan that provides a concept for the entire site. Kearney’s Miller & Associates have been engaged as consulting engineers for infrastructure.

“University Village presents numerous future development opportunities including a child development center and mixed-use retail, office, and housing projects,” Johnson said. “As we move forward with our ideas, plans, and opportunities we believe University Village will be a popular project with developers. Planning has included several opportunities for a ‘green’ development, and an attractive, upscale landscape design.”

Acres: 104
Location: The development is planned for an area south of The Buckle headquarters and southwest of UNK’s campus on the south side of Highway 30.
Project timeline: Phased
First university buildings to open: 2017 1) university student residence and 2) early childhood development center
Major design/infrastructure elements: Pedestrian-oriented and “walkable” community; greem spaces with public gathering, trails, naturalized areas, with storm water management; gardens and commons areas, a neighborhood park and greenways
Zones: health science education complex, retail core, child development, flex sites/Highway 30 frontage, university housing, Greek housing, utilities, other student housing, cottage homes, townhouses, apartments, recreation complex, parking
Entry: “The Grand Vista,” a corridor from entrance to end, north/south, beginning with a monumental design feature
Green initiatives: Clean energy, with planned solar, wind, and geothermal technologies; urban agriculture/community gardens, green roofs


Master Plan Rendering Web

Source 1: Kelly Bartling, 308.865.8455,
Source 2: Todd Gottula, 308.865.8454,

21 thoughts on “Plans progress for new University Village development south of UNK campus

  1. I have a great suggestion since UNK is in the mood to spend money. Pave the parking lot North of Mantor Hall by the Stadium…and put in enough parking so that my daughter…who paid for the right to park in that terrible lot…doesn’t get a ticket because the lot is full…especially game days…or gets her vehicle damaged from the rocks and holes in that mess of a lot. UNK should be ashamed that they are spending millions and millions of dollars and cannot fix that lot. Go drive it today and see what I mean. As a parent of two students at UNK we, the parents, demand better and the students definitely deserve it.

    1. I agree, this is awesome however parking needs to be addressed prior to this. I find it unfair to charge for parking and not provide it!!

    2. ATTENTION! I am looking for opinionated (positive or negative) community members, UNK Alumni and UNK students! I am doing a documentary on the new developments and if you would like to share your opinion, PLEASE contact me at Send an email titled “My Opinion” Hope to hear from someone if not everyone! Thank you!

    3. If you think paying for UNK parking is a rip-off, then you haven’t looked at stats from other campuses. When I was a student, i thought it was ridiculous, but now that I have attended/worked at 4 other schools, UNK is a bargain. The school I’m currently at charges almost $2,000 and oversells by 35%. While UNK is not perfect, it is much better than 99% of all other campuses.

  2. Personally, I believe this is one of either the boldest ideas ever or the worst. True it is new and different, and will address some issues at UNK like the Daycare Center; but other than that, I don’t see the point to it. There are other things that land could be used for, such as one of the main issues at UNK, parking. A simple parking garage would help address the issue. And if cost of maintenance is an issue, talk to somebody from Saint Francis Hospital or the City if Grand Island with how they address it since both of them have one.

  3. I too, am appalled at the “parking problem” at UNK. They need to be allowed to sell only the amount of permits corresponding to their parking spaces, and NO MORE. They oversell the permits, and then those of us who hold them are hardly ever able to park on campus. (Even though I have only 1 class this semester!) THIS NEEDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION. How about pulling down Otto Olson and building a 5 story parking garage there. Since that building is scheduled to be replaced. AND, speaking of replacing our campus buildings: How many of you have walked through the Music Department of UNK recently? The building is coming apart and falling down around the personnel there, yet it never seems to be scheduled to be replaced. That should be in the consideration of new buildings also!

  4. I honestly think it is stupid they are spending money when they need to focus on the parking issues here NOW! I am tired of parking far away from my dorm because they are overselling the lots. Also is this going across the way from west center in the corn field? Why don’t they make part of that still AG. UNK have an AG program why don’t they expand it a little bring a lot more students here. Also give the students hands on approach to learning about the crops. Just saying. Take care of the problems before starting new projects.

    1. That’s the first problem, I want parking lot, everyday. I can walk to class for health, and also I don’t want to drive more to find a parking lot farer than my home.

  5. People always complain about parking here, but if we went to any other college, like UNL, we would have to walk at least twice the distance every day and would be fine with it. If a five minute walk to your car is the worst problem you have with a college, you should be counting your blessings, not complaniing just because you can!

  6. Master planning and visioning must never stop if this university is to continue to move forward, despite continuing challenges in funding specific projects such as parking or renovations on existing buildings. Without a current influx of revenue a parking structure, — very expensive — or paving over land that could be better used for new academic buildings, parking improvements cannot be made. We enjoy low parking permit fees here compared to other universities. As you can read from the news story this new project will integrate private investment funding to improve UNK as well as the community. I appreciate these comments. They are all part of conversations that inform us on how to best use our scarce resources. And I think you agree the University Village vision is exciting.

  7. This is wonderful for UNK. If everyone complaining about parking, wants “better” parking, consider UNL. At UNL you’ll pay $312 for a perimeter permit which will require you to walk MUCH further than you’ll ever have to at UNK. If you want a student commuter permit at UNL you’ll pay $528. [ ]

    UNK parking is not that bad, I promise. In addition, of course they “oversell” the lots. It doesn’t allow you a reserved parking spot, just like a permit for the above costs at UNL doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the closest lot to your residence hall or building in which your class is in. It’s not logistical to have a parking spot for EVERY student in a residence hall, as too many kids stay off campus with friends even though they have a dorm, go home on the weekends, etc. If parking spots were guaranteed and you weren’t lucky enough to receive a spot, then you’d whine when there was an empty spot and you couldn’t park in it.

    Look at the whole picture, a huge boost to the university with new buildings and development and positives for the university for years to come, or you want a parking stall because you can’t walk a couple hundred yards and DEMAND a guaranteed parking spot. If you still feel this way, go propose to student government that they offer guaranteed parking spots, but if they do it, it’d only be justified if it cost you $1,000/semester… Bet you’ll be willing to walk a couple hundred yards.

  8. Seems that UNK is doing nothing more than trying to impress. How about we start with renovating buildings in substandard condition such as Otto Olsen or the Fine Arts Building instead of building new and quite honestly, completely unnecessary buildings and areas. Thankfully, I will be graduating in a matter of weeks, and never again will a dime of my money be contributed to UNK.

    1. You ask anyone at UNK and they would agree with you about Otto and the FAB. If you take a look at the flipbook as well as the master plan on UNK’s Planning Space Management website you will find that they do indeed intend to work on these issues. What most people are overlooking is this article is that it is specific for the new South Campus and will take as long as 20 years to fully develop. Only 2 building will be going up in the next 3-4 years right now. Other plans are in place for other renovations around campus, they’ve just finalized these so they wanted to share them with the community.

    2. Agreed, UNK is just trying to impress. Many buildings on campus need renovated and as a commuter student I sometimes am late to class because I spend so much time driving around looking for parking. There are better ways to spend money. I refuse to “embrace part of the culture”. I paid for a permit, I want to be able to park. I am sure UNK COULD solve the parking problem if they wanted but they are too busy with their various building projects.

  9. While I don’t think something like this is a terrible idea, its definitely a waste of money. I’m getting extremely sick of the parking issue at UNK. I have been told multiple times by personnel that the reason why there isn’t more parking around campus is because its too expensive, then the school decides to invest large amounts of money into unnecessary things like this, its appalling. As a commuter, the amount of spots for commuters around campus is pretty sad. It wouldn’t be difficult to put up a parking garage, as many others have mentioned, since the University seems to have more than enough money. As far as I’m concerned, its not a matter of being too expensive, its a matter of them deciding to waste it on significantly less important projects.

  10. UNK is my Alma Mater and I currently am a college administrator for a large SEC research university in the south and I will say this, parking is an issue on any college campus. It is always a practice, at any school to over sell parking spaces. As an administrator, I too have to pay the same prices students pay to park where I work. UNK parking is not that big of an issue that they can’t solve. Support your university and stop complaining about an issue that all college campuses have. It’s part of the culture, embrace it. If anything, not getting prime parking prepares you for that long commute you may have once you get that awesome degree and work in the real world!

    1. I think that design looks great and show that UNK is being purposeful in its needs and growth. A great mixture of remodeling and new buildings have been put in place. Hopefully we are educating students to make the world a better place rather than just one with convenient parking. The lot across from Ockinga is filled only with state track and large events so ‘to all, there is always a space there and no campus building is longer than an 10 minute walk.’ oh, believe me I do value a good parking space, delicious food, and a perfect roommate, but these great mysteries will continue on a campus throughout time–yet most of all, I value my education.

  11. I understand parking is a precious at any campus you attend. The reason the building is being build is for care of clients/patients in the future. The plans need to embrace the future health care of the rural consumer. The movement for health care is away from an acute setting to the community setting. UNK is looking to the furture of health care. A vision needs to be taken to educate the nurses and health care professionals which will be caring for the baby boomers. Personally I would like to know the nurse or healthcare worker is well educated and forward thinking in the training received and are the brightest and best. This can only be accomplished in providing the best facility to train future health care workers.

    I know parking is always a premium, at least you do not live in a metropolitan and pay large amounts per year to park. In the scheme of things this is minor. Make sure you leave early to find the parking space even though you may need to walk, for your health alittle. Utilization of your time could be used to study for a test or read a book.

  12. ATTENTION! I am looking for opinionated (positive or negative) community members, UNK Alumni and UNK students! I am doing a documentary on the new developments and if you would like to share your opinion, PLEASE contact me at Send an email titled “My Opinion” Hope to hear from someone if not everyone! Thank you!

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