KEARNEY – Amazing things happen when ambitious and visionary people cross paths.
That’s the guiding principle behind a $15.6 million office and regional meeting hall slated to open in 2023 in University Village at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
About 150 people gathered last week on the 104-acre grounds of the University Village near UNK to inaugurate the facility which will be called the Regional Engagement Center. Chancellor Doug Kristensen said the 52,000-square-foot facility will house a number of repeat tenants, but is also expected to attract important meetings and decision makers from across the state.
“It really is a great project,” Kristensen said.
Given the central location of the Regional Engagement Center in Nebraska, Kristensen said it is expected that the center will become a gathering place for greater Nebraska that will enhance Kearney’s role as a regional hub through in-person and virtual meetings, events and presentations. The center will also include office space so businesses, nonprofits and other organizations can establish or grow their presence with privileged access to a large pool of potential employees: UNK’s 6,600 students.
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Several companies and organizations have already signed on as tenants, but Kristensen peppered his speech with multiple hints that many offices are still available for rent.
Among the initial tenants is Olsson, an engineering and design firm. Other tenants are Grand Island manufacturer Chief Industries and Allo Communications.
“Olsson has invested in the Regional Engagement Center since its inception,” said Joe Johnson, Olsson’s chief business consultant for Nebraska and a graduate of UNK. “We are excited to grow with the state. It expands our footprint in Greater Nebraska.
Olsson operates in nine states. Its headquarters are in Lincoln and has satellites in eight Nebraska cities, including Kearney, Grand Island, Hastings and Holdrege.
Roger Bullington, President and Managing Director of Chief Construction, said the REC “will be a huge networking facility. The fact that we are a partner with UNK is great.
The UNK Alumni Association and the University of Nebraska Foundation will also be housed in the Regional Engagement Center. They’re in a small office building a few blocks from campus.
Approved in December by the University of Nebraska Board of Trustees, the center will create a centerpiece for the development of the college village.
UNK will own and occupy approximately 24,000 square feet inside the two-story building and contribute approximately $10.4 million in financing through an internal loan program. A private investment company will cover the remaining costs.
University Village, a public-private development south of UNK’s main campus, is designed as a walkable neighborhood comprising residential, commercial, academic, recreation, community engagement and service facilities.
Village Flats opened there in the summer of 2018, and the Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center followed in the fall of 2019. Construction began last fall on the $48 million Element 30 housing project, a partnership between UNK and Grand Island real estate developer Scott Rief that will add high-end apartments, townhouses and 10 plexes to the area. UNK also worked with the town of Kearney and private donors to build an indoor tennis complex which opened earlier this year.
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