Engineering Kearney’s Urban Destination: University Village

Celena Shepherd, Communications

December 14, 2021

Officials at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) have been talking about it for years – a unique area that creates a lively destination for the community and visitors, showcasing new development and recreational spaces.

The time for talk is now over. University Village is becoming a reality.

Located just south of the UNK campus, University Village will include residential, retail, and office space. The public-private development’s vision is to be an urban destination within a rural area that benefits the community, visitors, and the university.

Construction is progressing quickly, and Olsson has helped keep the momentum going with our involvement in several key projects.

“This project is different and unique all around,” said Joe J. Johnson, Olsson business development leader. “It will be an urbanized, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood that attracts people and really benefits the community with new businesses, housing, and more.”

First, Olsson helped with the University Village master plan update and platting followed by the Village Flats, which is an apartment housing complex that opened in 2018. Olsson provided civil engineering, landscape architecture, and designed the parking lot. A year later, the Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center opened.

  Village Flats

As a UNK alum and advisory member of the University Village board, Joe enjoys watching this project flourish firsthand. He said the public-private collaboration is an important aspect to bring the University Village vision to life. UNK is partnering with private developers and the City of Kearney on current projects. More additions to University Village include the Regional Engagement Center, retail and housing infrastructure, and a tennis complex.

UNK officials are excited to see the University Village vision come to life, according to Jon Watts, UNK’s vice chancellor for business and finance, and Michael Christen, UNK’s director of business services and University Village executive director.

“The excitement surrounding University Village and its progress has been growing substantially over the past few years, and the partnerships and collaboration with private businesses, such as Olsson, have only added to this great momentum,” Jon and Michael said in a joint statement. “As developments, such as the Regional Engagement and Alumni Center, Element 30, and the tennis center, become realities, we are encouraged by and confident in the benefits University Village will provide to the university, city, region, and state.”

The $15.6 million Regional Engagement and Alumni Center is more than a project for Olsson, it is the future home of our Kearney office.

“At Olsson, we have a unique brand,” Joe said. “We are here to support and grow communities. Being not only a part of this project but a future user of the space is a unique opportunity and really fits with our culture and values.”

The 49,000-square-foot building will also house the UNK Alumni Association and offices for the University of Nebraska Foundation. The two-story facility boasts technology-rich Class A office space and has been classified as the “centerpiece of the University Village development” by the university.


The Regional Engagement Center is scheduled to open in 2023, and Olsson will provide full services on the project: general civil, mechanical, electrical, and structural engineering and landscape architecture. We also will help with survey, construction observation, and materials testing and inspections.

“This will be a regional hub that helps connect the state and benefits residents, students, and businesses in the community,” Joe said. “There’s nothing quite like it in Nebraska, which is very cool to see.”

The firm’s greater Nebraska office leader Jeff Palik said the Kearney team is excited to relocate to the new building.

“Moving our Kearney office to the University Village will help strengthen our client relationships and increase our exposure to students to help us grow and recruit talent in central Nebraska,” said Jeff, who is managing the building’s design.

Currently, Olsson provides engineering services for the $48 million Element 30 project that will include retail and housing space. UNK partnered with Millennium Development on the project, which is the largest private investment in the university’s history on a construction project. It will be completed in three phases across five years.

  Element 30, Phase II

Matt Rief serves as project manager for the work and believes the Element 30 housing project is an important addition to University Village. He manages Olsson’s involvement in the project, which includes landscape architecture and civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering.

“This project will help create a community hub and a sustainable neighborhood that people want to go to,” Matt said. “This development will positively affect the community and the state.”

Also in progress at University Village is the $8.8 million Ernest Gundy Tennis Center. The center will be a much-valued community amenity and house the City of Kearney Park and Recreation Department and the UNK women’s tennis team. The six-court complex is expected to open in 2022. We provided civil engineering, construction observation, and special inspection services for the facility.

Plans are in the works to expand University Village even further – solidifying the development as a one-of-a-kind community hub in Nebraska. We’re excited to continue our collaboration with UNK and its partners and to meet our new neighbors at the Regional Engagement and Alumni Center in 2023.