A university-owned plot of land has been proposed as the “Unity Commons” development by two of the university’s private partners.
The mixed-use development proposal would be located at 2100 Vine St. and includes housing for retired alumni and staff, some retail opportunities and potential for cultural centers of Lincoln to unify in the space, Bill Nunez, vice chancellor for business and finance, said.
“If you look at that property, it’s been nothing but kind of a land mass,” Nunez said. “It could be quite a remarkable location for multi-purpose interests, uses and amenities. The opportunity is there, it’s just how we develop it and how it evolves.”
Nunez said the university decided to seek proposals for the development of the 16.49-acre property within the past year and received two bids on the development. The university ultimately decided to partner with Woodbury Corporation, a commercial real estate developer, and WRK Real Estate LLC of Lincoln.
“These kinds of public-private partnerships — that we’re all really striving to have — do to the benefit of our university, students, faculty, staff and community,” Nunez said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m excited about this first step forward that we’ve taken.”
Jeff Woodbury, the senior vice president of development and acquisitions at Woodbury Corporation, said that he looked for what was missing in the Lincoln community while putting the proposal together.
“In light of the lack of unity that so many communities are showing, we saw that as a really important element,” Woodbury said. “If there’s a way that we can invite the community and create spaces that will provide a place where people can come together … that is critical to the ultimate success of the project, and we saw this as the ideal place for this to occur.”
According to Nunez, the university hopes to eventually make residual income from leasing the space and giving developmental control to the corporation.
“It will be used to help offset the costs of running the university and our obligations,” Nunez said. “We try to do everything we can to keep tuition low and fees low, but the costs keep going up. So these are really opportunities to try to continue being creative with our resource use.”
Aside from the potential profits from the development, sustainability is an equally important aspect of the proposal.
“What we’re all about right now is we’re really working with cities, businesses and organizations to create a sense of sustainability.” Woodbury said. “All of this is that effort to create a healthier, more sustainable community.”
Woodbury Corporation is working closely with WRK Real Estate to gather more information about the community and what could potentially fill that space, Woodbury said.
“We are hoping that we’re listening and we’re building something that is providing for a need,” Woodbury said. “We want to listen to the community and talk about how we can bring together different groups.”
While there are no specific details yet on what organizations or businesses will be a part of the space, the university is currently working on how to operationalize the project going forward, Nunez said. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents will review the proposal for approval in early 2022.
“There’s been nothing but really positive feedback and excitement about this development,” Nunez said. “It does take time, it will be a few years in the making, but I think the excitement is high and I’m really encouraged by that.”