LINCOLN — The Nebraska Union may be getting a face-lift.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received three redevelopment plans from a Milwaukee-based architecture firm, Workshop Architects, for the student union. They range from a simple west addition to the union to a complete tear-down and redesign of the middle sections of the building.
“These three designs are intentionally different and designed to generate discussion,” said Jan van den Kieboom, principal architect for Workshop. “Each of these is simply an initial idea.”
The idea to redevelop came from Chancellor Harvey Perlman, said Charlie Francis, director of the Nebraska Union. With the university looking to expand to 30,000 students as part of the move to the Big Ten conference, redevelopment of the building could help aid in recruitment, he said.
“It's interesting because when you look at other Big Ten schools, so many have either built new buildings, renovated or are planning to do it,” Francis said.
Workshop Architects is a national firm that specializes in student-union design, development and construction. The firm has done some major projects, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Oklahoma State University.
“Part of what this firm does is gather data,” Francis said. “They talk to students and different stakeholders on campus and things come forward.”
Students pointed out the lack of lounge space in the Nebraska Union.
“We want more of a relationship interaction, so that you purchase your coffee, but stay because of the facility,” Francis said.
Natural light is also a big part of the new designs. All three concepts expand the Nebraska Union slightly to the west. The plans also reshuffle office space create a student involvement/leadership corridor on the second floor where the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, Greek Affairs, Student Involvement and University Program Council offices are.
The redesign would provide a stronger link to the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, Kieboom said, because they will share a more updated look. The buildings will remain connected on the second level of the Nebraska Union.
The Nebraska Union was opened in 1938, with the original entrance facing R Street, and moved north with each addition, in 1959, 1969 and 1999. The second and third additions are now a part of the interior of the building with a food court, student offices and study space. The last addition includes the entrance leading to the Selleck Quadrangle and Broyhill Fountain.
The first concept focuses on changes to the interior of the building with a small addition. The second concept calls to replace a portion of the second and third additions, up to the Nebraska Ballroom, with a new structure.
The third concept outlines the demolition of the entire second and third additions, the center of the building, linking the original Nebraska Union and the 1999 addition with an updated, student-friendly structure.
The plan also moves the ballroom from the second floor to the third, allowing a more open floor plan throughout the union. The plan also features a third-floor, walk-out roof terrace.
All three of the plans would more than double student lounge space, Kieboom said. He said the plans would ideally increase usable space within the union from 141,000 square feet to at least 157,000 square feet.
Cost estimates range from $55 million to $85 million, but those are likely to change as plans get refined during the design process. Funding for the redevelopment would probably come out of student fees, Francis said, but the Chancellor's Office is looking at other options such as the University of Nebraska Foundation.
The NU Board of Regents would have final say on the plan.
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