City Council delays sale of 17th Street to University

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- The University of Nebraska-Lincoln only has a handful of streets that run through campus. Over the last year,16th Street became a two-way, and now's the time they want to shut down a portion of 17th Street.

If the University gets the city's approval, it would turn a four-block stretch into a pedestrian area, but there's one sticking point.

The area of 17th Street from R and Vine streets is already torn up, but it could be completely gone if City Council can agree with the University on a price.

"It has nothing to do with being for or against vacating the street. It's just getting the best deal possible," said Roy Christensen, the City Council Chair.

The University wants to turn the roadway into green space.

"We're saying the value of the property is $1 a square foot right now," said Michelle Backemeyer. That's 80,000 square feet for $80,000.

Backemeyer, who is with the city's urban development, said the low price is because of easements, which are utilities and pipes that cannot be removed from the street.

"There are easements to be retained by LES sewer water, storm sewer," said Backemeyer.

"It makes no sense to me that the value of the property would drop because the city has easements for utilities. Because the only customers for those utilities is the University. Therefore, the University is the primary beneficiary," said Christensen.

But Backemeyer said the value of the land also decreases because it can't all be used for building and it must have some sort of private drive.

"The fire department also needs access to the area," said Backemeyer.

But City Council still wasn't convinced to make a sale.

"I'm just looking out to get the best deal for the people of Lincoln. I think $80,000, which is $1 a square foot, is pretty low," said Christensen.

Majority of City Council could not agree with the property pricing so they decided to delay voting until March 14th.