Omaha history, boulevard edition
The city’s major sewer system overhaul has prompted planning for something else: a historic boulevard system that dates to the late 1880s.
There’s no money for it yet, but there is a lengthy master plan that envisions mending boulevard connections lost to development and highway construction, improved lighting and landscaping and signs that would help link the entire system.
The idea, according to park planner Pat Slaven, is to get back to the vision of famed landscape architect Horace Cleveland. He designed the system to provide a seamless connection of green spaces between the city’s parks.
Adventures in wayfinding
You might have noticed the colorful signs going up around downtown, pointing visitors toward the area’s big attractions. Hopefully you didn’t follow this one to Creighton University — which isn’t, as it turns out, somewhere in the middle of the Missouri River.
RDG Planning & Design, the firm that helped design the Downtown Omaha Wayfinding Project with the City of Omaha and the Downtown Improvement District, is fixing the incorrect sign at 13th Street and Capitol Avenue.
“We have 44 different pole locations and about 23 sign faces. We have 30 poles installed, and this is only the second problem. That’s not doing too bad,” said John Sova, principal at RDG.
In the works: a bridge to the bridge
On today’s council agenda: the latest sign of plans for a new bridge that would make it easier to walk, run or bike from north downtown to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
The project, which could cost close to $3.8 million is still at least a few years down the road — planning officials told us construction likely wouldn’t start until 2016, at the earliest. But the city is beginning to explore planning and design options for a bridge that would stretch across the railroad tracks between the riverfront and destinations such as TD Ameritrade Park.
Gene Leahy work could begin soon
Coming soon: A much-improved Gene Leahy Mall.
The city has been pushing to revamp the downtown green space for more than a year, but was delayed after just one contractor — with too steep of a bid – expressed interest in the project. The city has $1.5 million in city funds and grant money from the Nebraska Environmental Trust available for the project.
Now, officials are sorting through five bids, each of them between $1.7 and $2.2 million. The company that’s eventually selected will put in new trails and lighting and drain, clean out and refill the lagoon.
A blank canvas…
Add another neighborhood to the list that includes north downtown and Midtown Crossing.
The area just west of downtown –roughly north to south between Dodge and Harney Streets, and east to west from 20th to 25th Streets — is the next big thing in Omaha urban redevelopment. The Planning Board has already approved a development plan that should be headed soon to the Omaha City Council.
The 73-page report includes a long list of suggestions for bringing more residents into the area, making it more accessible and pedestrian friendly and helping it to serve as a bridge between downtown and Midtown Crossing.
Rick’s puts city in tough spot
Rick’s Cafe Boatyard — a pricey restaurant counted on to anchor new riverfront development — has closed its doors and faces an uncertain future.
The property sits on the site of the former Asarco lead refinery. It’s owned by the city, which signed an extensive 30-year agreement to lease the property to the restaurateur. Current and former employees say the business has struggled.
Should the city start over?
Benson Park facelift begins
One of the city’s most well-used parks is in for a series of upgrades — although some will require the financial support of the neighborhood.
Benson Park, near North 70th Street and Military Avenue, has already seen accessibility updates to its pavillion. Starting this spring, visitors will also notice crews putting in new picnic areas, additional fishing spots and new barricades to make parking safer.
Said interim parks director Brook Bench: “This one is really driven by the use of the park. It’s so used on the weekends — this is a big enough park where we can do these improvements, but don’t have the facilities to do them.”
Lake could boost northwest development
Coming soon to northwest Omaha (if the powers that be sign off): a rather large lake.
Officials with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District say a flood-control project for the western portion of the metro area will also bring fishing, a boat ramp, trails and picnic areas to the neighborhood around 168th and Fort Streets.
Construction of the $45 million to $50 million project could begin next fall, with a potential completion date of spring 2015. The city would agree to pay for any additional recreational features on the site and take over operations and maintenance once construction is complete.
High-wire act to refurbish bridge
There’s a nice feature in today’s paper about ongoing renovations to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Our pals Erin Grace and Jay Withrow report the high-wire, $310,000 act to replace lighting atop the bridge’s pylons can get, well, a little shifty.
The $22 million bridge, designed by Kansas City firm HNTB, opened to great fanfare in September 2008. The LED lighting system near the top of the pylons was donated by Gallup and the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation. But the lights only worked properly for about a week.
The bridge will remain open at night and during the weekends while crews work, but they’ll be on the bridge for up to 10 hours a day on weekdays. No one will be allowed on the bridge when workers are present. The bridge is expected to reopen on a full-time basis around Thanksgiving.
Sewer project forces Lauritzen closures
The city’s sewer separation project has come to Lauritzen Gardens, and it’s going to be more than a year until all the work is done.
Crews started digging up some of the gardens on Oct. 1. They’ll be working through the property in phases, with the first wrapping up in the spring. Some areas, however, will be closed through early 2014.
For now, 12 of Lauritzen’s 19 gardens, plus Kenefick Park, are open. Currently off-limits to the public are the arboretum and bird sanctuary, the Garden in the Glen and the Model Railroad Garden.
The work will allow Lauritzen to fix some longtime issues that have prevented it from using some land for gardens.
Lauritzen Gardens has a full list of closures on its website.