KEARNEY, NE — A nearly 70-year-old building on the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s campus is getting new life and new residents.

Martin Hall opened in 1954 as a women’s dorm and closed in 2014. On Wednesday, university leaders and students cut the ribbon for the new home for UNK fraternities.

Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Kelly Bartling says the $32.65 million project is providing a space that’s better than new.

“(That is) is something we can be really proud of," Bartling said. "Taking a historic building like this and renovating it for less than the cost of new is something that is important to us.”

The 42,500 square-foot building now houses five fraternities. Each chapter gets it’s own space, but there are built in common areas designed for collaboration… a big positive for Sigma Phi Epsilon member Colton Roberts.

“Oh I love it. It’s my favorite part, getting to meet new people from different chapters, getting to hear about different chapters, getting to hear about different chapters, all types of things that can just help us kind of grow as one community,” Roberts said.

Each chapter has lounge space on the first floor. The chapter rooms are in the basement. The second and third floor include the sleeping spaces and a community kitchen.

The fraternity men say it’s all newer and nicer than the University Residence North and South buildings they used to live in. The sororities still live in the pods, but they will eventually be torn down.

Bartling thinks the new location is a natural fit.

“Having this space for them right in the center of campus just makes the most sense," Bartling said. "They’re visible, they’re active recruiters.”

Construction is underway on the new sorority residence hall next door, which will open around the end of 2023. Bartling says the two complexes will help grow greek life and the university. 

“When people come to campus and they come into the east side of campus and they see the entrance and they see these wonderful housing facilities, that will be attractive to prospective students and their families as well,” Bartling said.