All around town, there is a buzz around the plan for the riverfront. As something intended to physically unite the city around its downtown through a first-class urban riverfront, it has provided something for everyone… something to love, like, dislike, and generally question.
At ModeShift, the dialogue has been similar but first, let’s recap the proposal:
- Stated intent: “Create a catalyst on the riverfront”
- Physically and psychologically connect Downtown Omaha with the “riverfront” including Heartland of America Park, the Gene Leahy Mall, and Lewis and Clark Landing.
- Completion by 2021
Lewis and Clark Landing
- Connection to North Downtown by the “Baby Bob.” Proposed in CIP
- Connection through proposed Capital Avenue Extension
Heartland of America Park:
- Extends Douglas Street for a better connection with Lewis and Clark Landing (vehicular way)
- Extends Farnam Street as a pedestrian promenade that will terminate in a pier over the Missouri to provide a physical and visual connection to the river
- Lawn bridge over the railroad between Farnam Street extension to Interstate 480 to provide a better connection to the river
- Riverfront Trail (“Riverfront Promenade”)
- Ice/Rollerblade Ribbon
Gene Leahy Mall
- Sunken level, maintaining some water, from 11th Street Promenade to 8th Street
- An 11th Street Pedestrian Promenade to provide a connection across the mall
- Street level park from 11th Street Promenade to 13th Street
- The surplus land from 13th to 14th Street is proposed for “future development, civic plaza, and future civic opportunity”
- Theoretically, raising the mall to street level will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the space between Douglas and Farnam Streets
As there is more information contained in the plan than appropriate for a single blog post, there is much more information available on the project website: Riverfrontrevitalization.com/. Below are our thoughts on the proposal…
- $290M investment in the core of the city
- Will likely result in major private market investment in the core of the city
- Great cities have great downtowns and great urban parks and this seems like a step in the right direction
- A complement to the ORBT and the potential streetcar (alignments and interactions should be incorporated into the design)
- A strategic investment to physically and psychologically connect three disparate public spaces
- The proposal includes several pedestrian and bicycle connections in the study area including missing links:
- 11th Street Promenade on the Mall
- Riverfront Promenade through Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing to connect trail segments
- An improved connection between the Gene Leahy Mall and Heartland of America Park
- Better access to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
- The Gene Leahy Mall is an iconic public space and meddling with it should not be done lightly.
- The Gene Leahy Mall – today and in the future – is isolated by the adjacent street environments on Farnam and Douglas Streets and are not sufficiently addressed in the proposal. Both Farnam and Douglas Streets should be calmed to reduce vehicle speed, increase pedestrian and bicycle safety, and activate the streetscapes along the mall.
- The proposal is likely over programmed which will likely threaten the user experience
- The number of elements in the proposal will result in high maintenance costs and will likely lead to competition between event lawns within the project and with existing facilities such as Turner Park.
- The lack of public involvement further reinforces a ‘pay to play’ form of community engagement.
- People will continue coming downtown with their cars unless the city continues to invest to encourage transit ridership and to make the city safe for bicyclists and pedestrians.
We wish for transparency moving forward and we will demand quality because the stakes are too high for Omaha.