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The Noise About Riverfront

17 Jul

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

riverfront image A 

    • Connection to North Downtown by the “Baby Bob.” Proposed in CIP
    • Connection through proposed Capital Avenue Extension

Heartland of America Park: 

riverfront image B

    • 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

OM-RIV-HeartlandofAmericaPark-109

    • 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…

Pros:

  • $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

Cons:

  • 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.

 

Welcome our newest board members!

5 Jul

Last April we held our annual elections for new board positions. We had many apply and today we are happy to announce 4 new board roles for the upcoming cycle. Please join us in welcoming (list names alphabetically). Below are brief bios serving as a snapshot of their expertise and contributions to our board.

Derek Babb.JPG

Derek Babb
“I am a computer science teacher at Omaha North Magnet High School. I am passionate about equity in education and specifically CS education for all. My favorite form of transportation is bike and I ride as often as I can. I am also concerned about the fiscal consequences of our land use policy in Omaha and hope to make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly as well as more financially solvent.” Derek has a Bachelors degree in Secondary Education from UNL, a Masters in Mathematics from UNO and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Midland University.

John Cavanaugh headshot.jpg
Born and raised in Omaha, John Cavanaugh returned to Omaha in 2014 after living in Vermont and Washington D.C. John has a Law Degree and a Masters in Environmental Policy from Vermont Law School. He currently works as a criminal defense Attorney for indigent clients.

“I became interested in transportation as an environmental issue but have come to see it also as an economic justice issue. I want to help make Omaha a City that is livable for everyone regardless of Neighborhood or income.”

Crystal EdwardsCrystal Edwards
I have received all of my degrees from Nebraska institutions. A 1994 graduate of Ravenna Senior High School, I have long shown a passion for serving others through my work. Raised in the United Methodist tradition of social justice and trained at the University of Nebraska in sociology, I have studied the issues of inequality that divide us and sought out the connections to bring us together. As a high school student I engaged in service and as a college student I learned through service.

In 2005, I received a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and now as an adjunct Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska Omaha, I encourage service through community research. Currently, I host a website sharing student driven sociological research about Omaha called the Omaha Social Project. I encourage everyone to spend time sociologically exploring Omaha. I love to walk and I wish that I felt more inspired to do that in Omaha. I feel that the overwhelming preference for cars, and the unusual feeling of anonymity and power it provides to drivers makes it difficult for anyone to enjoy the city who isn’t driving through it. I will avoid walking if it means crossing busy thoroughfares and I really despise this so I am choosing to make Omaha a more walkable place. We must encourage alternatives for transportation because it will improve our overall lifestyle and reduce our costs and the alternatives should be fun and creative. I joined Mode Shift to put my back into it.

nickklimekNick Klimek
Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Nick came to Omaha by way of Ottumwa, Iowa where he led the city’s planning and development department. He now works as a community planning consultant helping cities throughout the Midwest to address their issues and capitalize on their opportunities. “I got involved in ModeShift because the form the city’s transportation network is important – it will dictate how residents of Omaha will live and how the city will function for decades to come.”

 

A Huge Thank You to all of our supporters during Omaha Gives!

29 May

We are very grateful for the support that rang in during Omaha Gives this year totaling our final donations to a whopping $12,860! This amount also includes a $1,000 participation prize that we received at midnight during the 24-hour challenge. With contributions like yours, this will help us move forward in a lot of new and exciting ways.

Recently, we’ve done quite a lot to advocate for safer and more efficient transportation options for everyone in the Omaha area. It’s important to us that we highlight those for any potential members who may be reading this. Below are a few wins that have taken place:

  • We launched member committees to further help educate and engage others on ways to stay proactive about transit options. The following committees are now actively seeking members: Biking Team, Election Team, Transit Team, Transparency Team, Urban Land Use Team, and the Walkability Team.
  • We initiated the intersection surveys throughout Omaha and reporting content to city officials for review. Learn about the nominated intersections on our blog.
  • We advocated for dialogue around the development of the Civic Center Site to ensure diverse and safe transportation options are considered. See blog post here.
  • We won the Friends of the Environment Award at Earth Day Omaha which came through a board nomination process. We are so honored to be recognized for this effort!
  • We developed a resource library at the Omaha Bicycle Company to help others stay informed about all things transportation.
  • We hired a Membership Coordinator!
  • We continue to help educate and engage through member-led Ride Alongs (traveling to different districts across the city via bus tours and historic site visits); co-organizing the Citizens’ Academy, at our Monthly Meetings and at our monthly Coffee Chats.

Building the Momentum

Last year we worked on our strategic plan, and identified goals we hope to achieve in the next few years according to our theory of change. Here’s where we stand:

  • We’ve continued to advocate for transparency from City Officials on topics like the Bond Issuing, reallocation of funds towards road safety and most importantly, invitations to the conversations of policy change before they are presented to legislature.
  • Continue to host coffee chats with local groups to build awareness and partnerships around safe transit options and healthy neighborhoods. So far this year, coffee chats included meet-ups with Seventy-Five North at the Highlander campus; Bcycle and the City Bike Sharing committee at the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge; Find out about other recent coffee chats here.
  • Educating our members through meetings, events and blog posts sharing active ways of engagement to secure a more diverse transit landscape across the Omaha Metropolitan Area.