UNL engineering may get $75 million renovation

For a college that prepares students to design and build, the facilities that house the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Engineering are uninviting.

But the College of Engineering is likely soon to receive approval for $75.5 million worth of building improvements.

The NU Board of Regents on Friday will consider an early plan for that project. The regents also are expected to approve a two-year budget for the university system for 2019-21.

Lance Pérez, dean of engineering at UNL, said his college wants to be competitive regionally and nationally, and that includes having good facilities.

“It’s very important to the College of Engineering and to the state,” Pérez said Saturday. He said the engineering college plays a key role in economic development in Nebraska.

“I think that this is a critical juncture for the College of Engineering,” he said. For the state to invest this way in the college is a testament to Nebraska’s commitment to higher education, he said.

The project would be paid for with $70 million in state funds appropriated two years ago, and $5.5 million in private money. Construction would start in June 2019 and conclude in September 2022.

The regents will meet at 1 p.m. at Varner Hall, 3835 Holdrege St. in Lincoln. They oversee two universities in Omaha, one each in Lincoln and Kearney, and the two-year Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.

Documents in the regents’ preparatory material say a facilities survey done two years ago found that the engineering buildings in Lincoln were “among the very worst in the entire” NU system.

Taylor Seeley, a UNL civil engineering student entering his senior year, said the engineering complex is “a weird cluster of buildings.”

Nebraska Hall, for instance, was originally erected in 1931. Othmer Hall was built in 2003. A third building, called the Link, ties Nebraska Hall to the Scott Engineering Center.

The proposal would renovate much of the Scott Engineering Center. Nebraska Hall would receive accessibility and other code upgrades. The Link would be removed and replaced with a larger building.

Seeley, of Omaha, said the College of Engineering’s lab equipment is good, “but the facilities in general are old.”

Seeley said renovated facilities would be a boon for the College of Engineering.

“I think it would be really good for Nebraska engineering as a whole,” he said. “I think it would definitely attract more students, more professors.”

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