Parking soon will be in short supply on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus, and university officials may use eminent domain to acquire nearby land.
Architect and developer Bob Perrin wants to build townhomes and condos — 69 units — on a square block south of Leavenworth Street. The land sits between 40th Street and the Field Club Trail and Mason and Marcy Streets. Perrin said he's ready to start construction in the spring.
But UNMC officials need more parking spots in the short and long term, and have targeted the land for parking. A 530-stall parking garage at 42nd and Emile Streets, which opened in 1972, is scheduled to close Dec. 1 because of concerns about the integrity of the structure.
Parking now is not allowed on the garage's top two floors, said Ken Hansen, assistant vice chancellor for facilities management and planning. “We're not confident that if we have heavy snowfalls ... We don't want to take any chances.”
In addition, construction of the planned cancer center, which will be built on the west side of the campus starting next year, will require the demolition of the 767-stall Durham Outpatient Center parking garage at 45th and Emile Streets. The cancer center will go where the parking garage and Swanson Hall now sit.
UNMC already is using some land that formerly housed the Omaha Public Power District service center near Emile Street and Saddle Creek Road for parking, but Hansen said that's still not enough space. The cancer center is expected to employ 1,700 people when it's completed, he said.
UNMC has offered Perrin $1.2 million for the property, which he purchased in 2005 for $400,000. Perrin said that would allow him to basically break even after conducting a market analysis, applying for tax increment financing and paying engineering and other fees, conducting soil analysis, etc.
Perrin said he understands that the med center needs parking: “I just think it's the wrong use of the property, a wrong way for the city to develop.”
It would be more environmentally friendly, he said, to build housing near the med center campus that allows employees to walk to and from work. A Destination Midtown study, he noted, promotes the construction of new in-fill housing and supports increasing opportunities for home ownership to improve neighborhood stability.
In June, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved acquiring Perrin's land, either voluntarily or involuntarily, said Tom Huston, an attorney with the Cline Williams law firm who is representing UNMC. “We've had multiple discussions with Mr. Perrin over the last several months,” he said, but haven't been able to get him to sell.
At a public hearing on the matter on Tuesday afternoon, Keith Swarts, UNMC's director of business services, said the med center already has acquired two properties near Perrin's property that would provide a total of 651 parking stalls. Perrin's property, he said, would hold 502 stalls and include green space, lighting that would blend with the neighborhood, security cameras and security phones. A shuttle that would ferry employees to and from the lots would operate mainly during the day, he said — evening shift workers would not park there.
The med center still will need to build a parking garage when the cancer center is completed in four years, even with all those additional spaces, Swarts said.
The campus now has 8,926 parking stalls — 7,186 for employees and students and 1,740 for patients and visitors. The 530 stalls in the 42nd and Emile garage and the 767 stalls at the outpatient center represent more than 14.5 percent of the total.
Chris Kilroy, who attended Tuesday's meeting, suggested that the med center lease Perrin's property until a more permanent parking plan could be put in place. Perrin said Wednesday that he would be open to waiting to start the project.
Perrin said he hopes med center officials reconsider their plans and look at available properties along Saddle Creek Road instead of acquiring his property. “That would be good for everybody,” he said.
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