HomeTop StoriesRegents greenlight UNMC residency plan for medical students

Regents greenlight UNMC residency plan for medical students

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents will meet on October 5, 2023 at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN – The University of Nebraska Board of Regents on Friday gave the green light to a plan to significantly expand its student housing offering at NU’s Omaha medical campus, after years of student demand.

UNMC student regent Katie Schultis, speaking. She is flanked from left by Regents Paul Kenney, Barbara Weitz and Kathy Wilmot. October 5, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

The regents voted 7-0, with all student regents also endorsing the proposal, to advance a plan championed by University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey Gold. The self-funded $66 million residential complex It would be six stories high southeast of 39th Street and Dewey Avenue, in the Gold Coast Historic District, and would accommodate up to 300 students.

UNMC student regent Katie Schultis said the plan would be one of many as students have been demanding housing for years and consider it their “most pressing issue.”

“I’m not saying it solves every problem, but it does solve a major student problem,” she said.

Gold noted that as UNMC continued to grow, the campus was its “own worst enemy” in supporting surrounding real estate prices. He said the new apartments are a “de minimis” or trivial representation of demand for UNMC’s more than 4,500 students.

‘Irreplaceable heritage’

UNMC owns the multiple properties at the planned development site, but the federal designation of honor for the Gold Coast Historic District led one organization, Preserve Omaha, to ask that regents consider its “irreplaceable heritage” in their decision-making.

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A six-story, 205,000-square-foot student housing project is planned to meet growing student demand at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The proposed location on campus is southeast of 39th Street and Dewey Avenue. (Courtesy of Holland Basham Architects)

Betty Gillespie, interim deputy state historic preservation officer for History Nebraska, read a letter from the group’s board of directors and the Blackstone Neighborhood Association, noting that the district is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preserve Omaha’s letter notes that three homes slated for demolition were built by two of Omaha’s “finest architects” and were home to several important people, including a former chair of midwifery at what was then Creighton Medical College at the late 19th century and an art dealer who emphasized Omaha as a “burgeoning cosmopolitan center.”

Former U.S. Sen. Charles Manderson, R-Neb. (1883 to 1895), also lived in one of the houses that were to be demolished. He was a Civil War veteran who served as Omaha city attorney for six years and was a member of the 1871 and 1875 Nebraska Constitutional Conventions.

“The decision to demolish these houses affects the significance of an already vulnerable neighborhood, its character, history and quality of life,” the organization’s letter said. “We believe there are other solutions to accommodate additional housing without destroying Omaha’s history and the opportunity for students to live in such a unique location.”

Anne Barnes, UNMC’s vice chancellor for business and finance, said the apartment complex would be exclusively for students and that UNMC could look at other locations, but that would offset a planned start of construction in 2024, in time for the to open autumn 2026.

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“We don’t want to diminish that historical significance in any way,” Barnes said. “However, these seven buildings currently provide housing for up to thirteen students and families.”

‘Start of adequate housing’

Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice, board chairman, asked if UNMC had considered splitting off the property and giving buyers the option of purchasing the homes to move them.

He recognized the neighborhood’s history, but said the positives “far outweigh the negatives.”

Regent Jim Scheer of Norfolk, center. He is flanked by UNK Student Regent Temo Molina and Regent Jack Stark of Omaha. October 5, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Regent Jim Scheer of Norfolk similarly said the regents can recognize that there are pitfalls with any project, but if NU wants to continue expanding, it must provide adequate housing.

“And this is not adequate housing,” he said. “This is the start of adequate housing.”

Regent Jack Stark of Omaha, who taught for decades at UNMC and all NU campuses, said like Scheer that some level of housing is needed to attract potential students.

Scheer said if someone wants to move the buildings from the designated site, UNMC can advertise a firm deadline, but he was not in favor of delays.

“Like everything else, we have to move forward,” he said.

Amid other items approved by the regents Friday:

  • Allowing alcohol sales at Haymarket Park in Lincoln for Husker softball and baseball games as early as Friday evening, April 19. The profits will fund capital improvements at the park, which is jointly owned by NEBCO. Alcohol already flowed during Saltdogs games in the park. (Passed 5-2 with support from all student regents.)

  • Renaming the Husker Athletic “Go Big Facility” to “Osborne Legacy Complex” in honor of Tom Osborne’s “tremendous impact on Husker Football, Nebraska Athletics and the University of Nebraska at large.” (Passed 7-0, with support from all student regents.)

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Historic houses on the proposed location of the residence

  • Charles C. Rosewater House, 3903 Dewey Ave., designed by Frederick A. Henninger in 1906. Preservation Omaha states that Henninger designed many homes for Omaha’s upper class. Dr. Rosewater came to Omaha to practice medicine in the 1880s and served as chairman of the obstetrics department at Creighton Medical College for fifteen years before focusing on general medicine. Rosewater’s brother, Edward, founded the Omaha Bee.

  • Harry P. and Eugenie Whitmore House, 1905 Dewey Ave., designed by John McDonald. McDonald was also the architect behind the Joslyn Castle. Harry Whitmore, an art dealer, is credited with highlighting Omaha as a “burgeoning cosmopolitan center,” says Preserve Omaha. Eugenia Whitmore was an accomplished pianist and philanthropist who helped found the Amateur Musical Club, Garden Club and Woman’s Club.

  • Neoclassical Revival home at 510 S. 38th Ave., designed circa 1902 before the Civil War. Colonel Charles Manderson rose in rank to first lieutenant at the beginning of the war and later came to Omaha in 1869 to become a lawyer. He served as the city’s attorney for six years and was a member of the state constitutional conventions in 1871 and 1875. From 1883 to 1895 he served as a member of the United States Senate.

Source: Preserve Omaha Board of Directors and Blackstone Neighborhood Association

The post Regents greenlight UNMC residence hall plan for medical students appeared first on Nebraska Examiner.

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