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17th Street

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln would like to purchase a portion of 17th Street adjacent to campus — shown here looking north from R Street — and convert it into a pedestrian walkway.

Mayor Chris Beutler is urging the City Council in an open letter to sell a portion of 17th Street, which cuts through City Campus, to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In the letter, Beutler listed three reasons: the price is fair; avoiding adding to the university’s current financial dilemma; and the city's cost of keeping 17th Street open.

In February, the council delayed a decision on the sale for a month after several council members questioned the sale price — $1 per square foot, or $80,000.

The council is expected to vote on the sale after a public hearing at Monday’s 3 p.m. meeting.

The price is fair based on multiple easements the city will have that limit use of the land, Beutler said in the letter.

“I always strive to protect the city’s interests by ensuring fair and reasonable terms on agreements with the university and will continue to do so. However, I do not consider demands for payment that are unwarranted to be reasonable,” he wrote.

In addition, Beutler said he does not want to demand more money at a time when the university is facing major tuition hikes and cuts in classes because of a proposed cut in state funding.

“I cannot demand more money and make their grave fiscal situation even worse,” he wrote.

UNL is a city partner in projects that have accelerated Lincoln's growth, including Innovation Campus, Pinnacle Bank Arena, Haymarket Park and Breslow Ice Center, he said.

And UNL is a critical economic development engine, generating 10 percent of Lincoln's gross domestic product, he wrote. 

Keeping the street open is also an expense. It will cost the city $230,000 to rehabilitate the street and another $40,000 a year in operations and maintenance costs, according to the letter.

Under the plan to sell the street, the university wants to close the street and turn the area into a pedestrian walkway for the more than 4,000 students who live in the area, with access to buildings for emergency vehicles.

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The closing of 17th Street is part of a long-term plan to make City Campus safer for pedestrians since the city built Antelope Valley Parkway as an alternative.

Council Chairman Roy Christensen said people calling him have recommended the city retain 17th Street and keep it open.

He expects some residents to offer that option during Monday's public hearing.

Council members suggested in February that the city negotiate a better deal. Christensen said he's aware that there have been discussions between city and NU attorneys during the past month.

The street has been closed for several months while debris is hauled away from the imploded Cather and Pound residence halls.

The city would sell 17th Street from 300 feet north of R Street up to, but not including, Vine Street. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.



Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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