Jacob Gehringer, second from right, who was born with Down syndrome, helps pound in ceremonial nails. From left are Mayor Jean Stothert, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Munroe-Meyer Institute Director Karoly Mirnics, Wally Weitz, Ruth Scott, Bill Scott and Gehringer’s mother, Denise, MMI board president.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center on Monday formally kicked off renovation of a building for a new center that officials say will transform the lives of Nebraskans with disabilities.

A building at 69th and Pine Streets in Aksarben Village formerly owned by First Data is being renovated for the new $86 million Munroe-Meyer Institute.

When the building opens next year, it will more than double the size of the institute’s current facility on the UNMC campus.

“Today marks a new and incredible chapter in the history of MMI,” UNMC Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold said during Monday’s groundbreaking.

MMI traces its history to 100 years ago next month, when a nonprofit was formed in Omaha to assist children afflicted with polio. It now serves people in the region with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as behavioral and developmental disorders like autism.

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Because the project does not involve breaking ground on an all-new building, donors instead joined medical center officials and others in pounding ceremonial nails for the occasion.

UNMC officials say the project will be paid for with private dollars donated through the University of Nebraska Foundation and state money. Lead benefactors include the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, Weitz Family Foundation, Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation and Hattie B. Munroe Foundation.

MMI Director Dr. Karoly Mirnics said the new facility’s proximity to the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Scott Campus will help MMI further leverage technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Current examples include using virtual reality simulations to help children with cerebral palsy learn new skills and strengthen their bodies.

“The new building will be unique and unparalleled in the world,” Mirnics said.

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Reporter - Metro News

Henry is a general assignment reporter, but his specialty is deep dives into state issues and public policy. He's also into the numbers behind a story, yet to meet a spreadsheet he didn't like. Follow him on Twitter @HenryCordes. Phone: 402-444-1130.

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