• See the full UNO master plan document (PDF)
The new master plan for the University of Nebraska at Omaha aims for a more vibrant campus through improved parking and transit, greater density and more on-campus housing.
The plan was presented Thursday to the NU Board of Regents during a campus visit.
Michael Johnson, principal of Smith Group JJR, said the plan looks to meet UNO's needs for the next 30 to 40 years and is designed to accommodate, but not mandate, 20,000 students. UNO has set a goal to grow to 20,000 students by 2020. Enrollment increased 3 percent this fall, to 15,227.
“This is a plan that provides a metropolitan vision for UNO as we think about enrollment growth in the future,” Johnson said.
The plan looks at the campus as three distinct areas — the Dodge, Pacific and Center Street Campuses, with the Dodge Street Campus considered the heart of UNO activities.
Previously, many have referred to a main and south campus, now called Dodge Street and Pacific Street, respectively.
The third is the Center Street Campus, envisioned as UNO's recreational and athletic home under the plan. The anchor will be a new $87.9 million arena at 67th and Center Streets, which will be home to UNO hockey, men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams. The new arena is scheduled to open in 2015.
The campus south of Center Street also could include baseball and softball stadiums, outdoor and indoor tennis courts and outdoor fields for multiple sports.
The master plan, on which the regents took no action Thursday, offers a conceptual look at potential future projects. Its focus is on a stronger sense of student life and developing an identifiable campus character.
It does not envision pushing the boundaries of the campus beyond the current footprint. New academic buildings and dorms would be planned within those boundaries, Johnson said, and the Dodge Street Campus could be centered on a grassy area known as the Pep Bowl, north of the new soccer pitch at Caniglia Field. Beautification projects along Dodge would also improve the character for entering students, Johnson said.
Residential dorms in the Dodge Street and Pacific Street Campuses are also intended to give each an identifiable feel and character, Johnson said.
Johnson said better connecting the three campuses, separated by Elmwood Park but connected with main roads, through the existing on-campus bus system would alleviate parking stress. The plan also emphasizes making the campus more friendly to bikers and walkers.
If parking were more focused around the perimeter of the UNO campus and connections between the sections were stronger, Johnson said, students would have to park only once to move around campus.
Regent Hal Daub of Omaha said it's important to keep parking available, because so many UNO students have part-time jobs and may have a tight turnaround between class and work.
“Our students need to get to work and to and from class more conveniently than maybe on other locations,” Daub said.
The goals in the master plan — greater density and more housing — are key not only to recruitment but to keeping more students, said B.J. Reed, UNO's senior vice chancellor of academic affairs. Creating Greek housing or space for families and international students all provide growth opportunities and are ideas that UNO hasn't tried yet, he said.
UNO Chancellor John Christensen said more on-campus housing is the greatest priority. There's a waiting list for campus housing, and a lack of space has become a deciding factor for students thinking about UNO, Christensen said.
Most metropolitan universities of UNO's size have 7 to 10 percent more available housing, he said.
World-Herald staff writer Christopher Burbach contributed to this report.