Industrial Arts Building proposal rejected

The single proposal for the redevelopment of the Industrial Arts Building at the former State Fair Park has been rejected by University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials.

The proposal submitted by The Alexander Co. and Miller & Associates, both Madison, Wis., -based development firms, called for the university to finance the proposed redevelopment of the Industrial Arts Building and did not include any tenants for the building.

In a press release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,  the UNL Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance says the proposal was rejected because it basically put the full financial risk and burden of occupancy on the university. The proposal also included plans for the building to house retail space, casual meeting areas, a welcome center and open office areas, all of which are included in the planned re-development of the 4-H Building. Consultants have recommended the redevelopment of the 4-H Building into a commons area for Nebraska Innovation Campus.

     “We greatly respect the credentials of the team of companies that responded to the RFP. However, in the end, while they provided an interesting idea, they were unwilling to accept the business risk associated with the project,” said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman.

     “The university does not have the financial resources to be able to redevelop both the 4-H Building and the Industrial Arts Building,” said Christine Jackson, UNL vice chancellor for business and finance. “The adaptive reuse proposal for the 4-H Building ties directly to the vision and intent of Nebraska Innovation Campus into the future.

     “If funding had been brought to the table for the IA Building, the university would have been prepared to move forward. However, the fact that no private developer was prepared to assume the business risk for this project confirms that the IA building is not a financially viable option for the Nebraska Innovation Campus and private sector reuse.”

     The university issued a Request for Proposals March 5 seeking a developer to redevelop the Industrial Arts Building for reuse. One proposal was submitted before the July 1 deadline. The RFP was issued following concerns about the planned demolition of the building raised by a historic preservation group. Consultants have recommended the 1913 building be razed to make way for the development of Nebraska Innovation Campus.

     Before making plans for Innovation Campus, meetings were held between UNL officials, UNL consultants and the City of Lincoln historic preservation planner, who conveyed that the Arsenal and 4-H buildings are the two on the property seen as significant and worthy of integration in future plans. Both are being preserved or redeveloped.

     “A public process is required to determine the future of the Industrial Arts Building, and the university intends to follow that process, although it is obvious that having the building in its current condition jeopardizes moving forward on Innovation Campus,” Jackson said. “Potential investors are keenly aware of their surrounding environment. A vacant, dilapidated building, located in a primary location on the property, does not help build interest nor spur investment.”

     The university will engage in the process established for considering the future of buildings claimed to be of historical significance and make a decision about the future of the building at that time, Jackson said. She said there is no plan at this time to demolish the building.

     For more on the plans for Nebraska Innovation Campus, visit