The University of Nebraska at Omaha has added another building to its campus in a newly announced land purchase from the First Data Corporation.
According to a press release from the university, the 194,000 square-foot building will accommodate program growth in areas that represent key strengths for UNO.
Chancellor John Christensen said this purchase is a win for the university, First Data and the state.
“The building is a tremendous resource for our campus that will set the stage for the next phase of growth at UNO,” Christensen said. “We have an opportunity to build on our success in ways that will benefit our students, business partners and the community. I’m incredibly excited about what this means for the future of the university.”
Even with the recent additions of Baxter Arena and Center Street campus, Senior Vice Chancellor B.J. Reed said UNO is limited in its ability to grow physically, so this building is a welcomed addition.
“Acquiring that building added 200,000 square feet that we don’t have to build,” Reed said. “That takes the pressure off having to build another building right away. We don’t have to use that [land] between Mammel Hall and PKI now.”
The land purchase is part of an on-going relationship between UNO and First Data. Chairman and CEO of First Data Frank Bisignano said the company has worked with UNO on a number of strategic initiatives.
“First Data has a long and successful partnership with UNO that serves as a key pillar of our overall commitment to higher education and the Oma-ha community,” Bisignano said.
According to a UNO press re-lease, the state budget package approved by the Legislature and signed Wednesday by Gov. Pete Ricketts includes funding for university maintenance projects such as renovation of the Pine Street building.
NU President Hank Bounds thanked the Governor and state senators for their support. Chief Research Officer Scott Snyder said this purchase is also important because the university is in desperate need of expanded STEM facilities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
“Alwine hall is chocked full, Durham Science Center is at capacity, and PKI is at capacity,” Snyder said.
UNO enrollment statistics indicate the university is well on its way to achieving its goal of 20,000 students by 2020. Currently, the university does not have building capacity for such numbers, but Reed said there are remedies to that dilemma.
“Existing buildings can be expand-ed,” Reed said. “There is still space on Dodge Street [campus] for expansion.”
UNO students shared a collective sigh in recent years as they watched surface parking dwindle, but Reed indicated the disappearance of surface parking is not without reason.
“We get a lot of complaints about the fact we are taking away surface parking, but the reality is surface parking in the middle of a campus is not a good idea,” Reed said. “Go to any other campus, like UNL for example, and they have moved all their parking garages to the margins of the campus because that is the best place for those.”
Reed explained it’s important for UNO to utilize its space as efficiently as possible to facilitate growth, and areas of campus otherwise occupied by surface lot parking could be put to use in the future with the addition of new buildings as well as the expansion of existing ones.
According to Reed, the university has seen significant growth since 2003. He speculates that momentum won’t lessen any time soon.
“UNO is the best position of any campus in the [NU] system,” Reed said. “The demographics are here [in Omaha]. This is where the people are, and this is where the population growth is in the state. This is where the economic growth is going to happen.
Reed and Snyder both agree the acquisition of the Pine Street building will mean a huge advancement in opportunities for UNO students.
With the latest transaction, First Data has expressed a furthered commitment to the ongoing partnership between the two entities.
“Once we move into the building, First Data is still going to be there,” Reed said. “They are very committed to our veterans population in terms of hiring. They are working in areas that are very high security… they’re going to hire our students.”
First Data will transition employees out of the building and into other space in the metro area in the near future. No date of move in for UNO is set at this time.