UNL to sublease space at Innovation Campus

Construction continues on the east side of the Food Innovation Center at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Work continues to transform the former Industrial Arts Building into greenhouse and office space.

Nebraska Innovation Campus could move closer to independence when the University of Nebraska Board of Regents considers giving the research and development park more authority over its operations.

Regents are set to consider allowing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to approve subleases within its master-leased areas of Innovation Campus, as well as add structures to the terms of directors overseeing campus operations.

UNL's footprint at Innovation Campus has expanded significantly this year after regents approved a $4.5 million lease for space in the Food Innovation Center. That 117,000-square-foot area, set to open in summer 2015, will be the new home to UNL’s Food Science and Technology Department.

UNL leased an additional $1.5 million of space in September inside the Greenhouse Innovation Center for additional classrooms, a student gathering area and greenhouse bays.

UNL will control the leasable space inside both centers. UNL will be able to partner “with businesses that align with university initiatives” or with retail businesses or vendors seeking space on the 233-acre campus sitting on the former State Fairgrounds.

Giving UNL the authority to sublease space will make Innovation Campus more responsive to requests from potential tenants, executive director Dan Duncan said.

“We can negotiate leases and terms within the regents’ policy framework and serve those people in a more expedited manner,” Duncan said.

Leases would be approved by the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corp. Board of Directors, and then go to UNL administrators for final approval.

Several leases are under negotiation at the moment, Duncan said, with another Innovation Campus partner expected to be announced by the end of the year.

Innovation Campus is also moving toward “operational maturity” and will ask regents to set rotating terms for board members.

All of the original members of the Innovation Campus board, appointed in June 2010, still serve.

If approved by regents, end dates would be added to the terms of Innovation Campus board members, who could be reappointed by the Board of Regents when their terms end.

* Tom Henning, CEO of Assurity Life Insurance; Dana Bradford, CEO of Waitt Co.; and NU Interim President Dr. Jim Linder will serve until June 30.

* Matt Williams, president of Gothenburg State Bank; Tonn Ostergard, president and CEO of Crete Carrier Corp.; and UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman will have terms expiring June 30, 2016.

* JoAnn Martin, CEO of Ameritas Life Insurance; Prem Paul, UNL’s vice chancellor for research and economic development; and Ronnie Green, vice president and vice chancellor for the UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources will serve through June 30, 2017.

Duncan said setting rotating three-year terms will allow Innovation Campus to add more areas of expertise to the board in the future.

“The original board was comprised of people that knew how to get real estate projects off the ground,” Duncan said. “Now we’re entering the phase of populating that.”

November 17, 2014 5:00 am
By CHRIS DUNKER / Lincoln Journal Star

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.