March 26, 2009

Harvey Perlman and the Innovation Campus

At the Heartland Conference for Free Enterprise, I heard Chancellor Perlman speak about research expansions to UNL. The new expansion - formerly the Nebraska State Fair Park - is being dubbed the Innovation Campus. The campus would link the City and East Campuses of UNL.

The talk was very interesting. People have said that Harvey is a boring public speaker, but I must have caught him on payday. He was enthusiastic about the Campus expansion, and even poked fun about having Ben Nelson carve out a share of Obama money.

The research corridor (ripped off from the research triangle in North Carolina) includes renovations to the Whittier School, a new physics building, the Ken Morrison Life Sciences Center on east campus and another Agriculture related project - the latter two renovations receiving some form of Obama money.

The Whittier School
, which has been a vine street eyesore for 30 years, will host a number of new programs, like:
  • A Federally funded transportation research center - So if anyone from the coasts ever ends up in Nebraska they will be able to find their way out.
  • An Alternative Energy research center
  • A startup incubator -Turbine Flats type operation
Harvey went into details about how these large projects are developed, which was interesting, but I'll save that for a future, more detailed post. The main point that he made about the progress on this expansion is that it takes many years to get these projects off the ground - a similar project in North Carolina took 20 years. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to coordinate UNL, State and Federal money - all the while making sure that everyone's back is getting scratched.

Harvey, like all other UNL leaders (except for Study Abroad), want to keep the young people in Nebraska. This project would attract more companies and goverenment agencies to UNL for research, because they cannot afford it anymore. With more research, more jobs are created, which will retain more native Nebraskans.

After the talk, Harvey left time for questions. Of course, someone out of the 150 or so people in attendance had to burst out the idea:

"Why don't we build a monorail to connect city campus and east campus." This of course made me think of the Simpsons (Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!)

Lets be serious - Las Vegas built a monorail in 2004. It cost them around $100 million per mile. They built it because there would be rougly 250,000 visitors in the city at any given time. This is the Rolls Royce of Monorails (and believe me, I know my Monorails). A more realistic Monorail would cost roughly $35 million per mile. We have to move a few hundred students 20 blocks. Please - no more monorails. We don't want Lincoln to turn out like North Haverbrook.

This project would benefit UNL greatly, and solidify it as a premeir research university. The project also carries loads of risk; expanding UNL's city campus is a cruel game of tetris. Heavy use rail lines to the north and west, downtown to the south and the sheer amount of ghetto to the west make the State Fair park the most logical area of expansion. 

It should be interesting to see how the Innovation Campus pans out. But please remember, no Monorails.


  1. First of all, did you record that in your basement on VHS?
    Second, don't try to walk over the train tracks (or their fences).
    Third, where can we get some space on this. Living and Workspace please.

  2. The audio for the clip needs some work - we can redub it in our new recording studio. We cannot live/work there though, so the search continues.

  3. Did Pdiddy say who would be in charge of the incubator? UNL? Private? How is Turbine Flats done?