Official: Gene Leahy Mall

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Official: Gene Leahy Mall

Postby eomaha » Wed Aug 25, 2004 3:36 pm

Mall makeover takes first step

A nationally known landscape architect began work Wednesday on breathing new life into the Gene Leahy Mall and the Old Market.

"For the last 30 years, the mall and the Old Market have served as the catalysts for downtown development," said Connie Spellman of Lively Omaha.

"Now they are a little tired," she said. "We want them to be the catalyst in the future."

Michael Van Valkenburgh, who heads a New York-based landscape architectural firm and teaches at Harvard University, has been brought in to suggest alterations to the mall and along 11th Street to the south.

Lively Omaha, a privately funded initiative affiliated with the Omaha Community Foundation, is organizing the effort in conjunction with the city.

The $130,000, four-month study by Van Valkenburgh and his firm is being financed by the Durham Foundation, HDR, the McGowan Family Fund, Pinnacle Bank, the City of Omaha and Lively Omaha. The McGowan family has an Omaha insurance company.

The study is an outgrowth of Omaha By Design, the effort to upgrade building standards and take other steps to create more interesting public spaces.

Van Valkenburgh has been involved in designing landscapes across the country, as well as in Canada, France and Korea. The Columbus, Ohio, riverfront; Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House; and Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York are among his more recent projects.

In Omaha, he will work on two separate but related issues: 11th Street and the Gene Leahy Mall.

The heart of the Old Market is 11th and Howard Streets. But the "feel" of the Old Market dissipates after one block north and south on 11th Street.

The brick street has been patched with asphalt and concrete between Farnam and Harney Streets. The stretch is lined by a chain-link fence rather than trees and flower pots.

The street is viewed as an important connector from the Old Market to new attractions north of the Gene Leahy Mall: hotels, Qwest Center Omaha and the Performing Arts Center.

The full redesign of the streetscape along 11th Street will extend from Leavenworth Street, where the new SOMA townhomes are under construction, through or over the mall to Douglas Street.

"With the nearly $2 billion investment made during the past three years in downtown and the riverfront properties, it is critical for citizens and visitors to have easy access to and through the study area," according to a Lively Omaha report.

The report says changes at the mall are needed "that would result in the park becoming a much more inviting, friendlier space, offering easier access, better security and allowing for greater socialization."

Mayor Mike Fahey is committed to keeping the mall "a marquee park for our city," said Peter Festersen, the mayor's deputy chief of staff.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates was selected in a national competition, partly on the basis of its work in cold-weather climates.

"It makes no sense to select a firm that has done all its work in Florida or California," Spellman said.

The firm also has a wealth of experience with urban landscapes, with an appreciation of overall transportation and urban planning issues.

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New and Improved Gene Leahy Mall?

Postby SBNathan » Wed Aug 25, 2004 6:04 pm

I read today's front page story in the OWH will joyful delight. Although I have always found the current lagoon-style park peaceful, the abundance of water really limits pedestrian activities. There really isn't a large green space to play, rest, gaze, or frolic. I think the lack of these kinds of activities really limits the parks functionality.

What do you all think would make the Gene Leahy mall a more pleasant place to congregate?

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Postby futrecndvlpr » Wed Aug 25, 2004 10:34 pm

I think a makeover is long overdue. I would like to see at least a portion of the mall be brought up to street level, paved or bricked, creating a mini ampitheather (sp?). I think this would create a great gathering spot. I realize that we don't have quit the foot taffic as DT Portland, but they have a similar setup, Pioneer Square. Last summer, it seemed like there was a different event taking place everyday.

Whatever comes of this, I hope two things. First, that some big donor steps up to make sure it is done right. Second, that some of the Mall be brought up to steet level.

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Postby StreetsOfOmaha » Thu Aug 26, 2004 12:06 am

I think this is a fantastic notion. And yes, it's LONG overdue.

Of course the mall is a great green space in the heart of downtown, but it's details and fixtures are tired, worn out, and gawdy. I mean, the lights that line the beautiful lagoon are made of ugly concrete with rusty yellow, yellow tops. I'm actually just really sick of all the formed concrete. I mean, if you're going to use concrete, do it right! Make some sort of modern, sleek design. The current design is just bland at best.

I also love the idea of focusing on 11th street as a north and south connector, ESPECIALLY with all the new things anchoring the area north of the Old Market (Qwest, hotels, PAC, L&C), and projects like SoMa anchoring the bottom of the Market. 11th street is the perfect connector.

I really hope this takes off!!!!!
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Postby DTO Luv » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:05 pm

A new bridge extending from the arch to the other side of the street would do well. You either have to walk to the other end of the park or got to 10th St. to get across.
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Postby DTO Luv » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:09 pm

Why would you want to fill in the Mall? I have seen people many times with frizbees and on blankets on the grass. It's good that the park is sunken because it makes it more like a park w/o the view of the street traffic. They could redo the lights and make them look more modern.
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Postby StreetsOfOmaha » Thu Aug 26, 2004 4:39 pm

I'm in favor of keeping some parts sunken, but I'd like to see much more of the park come up to streetlevel and become more seemless with its urban surroundings.
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Postby Zephyr » Fri Aug 27, 2004 11:47 am

I definitely like the sunkenness as well - it gives a great isolation from the busy city, but still with the skyscrapers (except for the State building) breathing around you. But I think there needs to be work done on the transition between the sidewalk and the park, especially where the concrete walls are at. And there should be more interactive features, perhaps like one of those fountains that spray up that you can run/walk through. Also, the area underneath the 10th Street bridge on both sides of the water really needs some work.

I don't entirely agree with Connie Spellman that the park was the catalyst for downtown development. I think that tax increment financing, and the various public-private partnerships that resulted, beginning in the late 70s, was the main catalyst. The park was more of a centerpiece of all the redevelopment.
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Postby DTO Luv » Fri Aug 27, 2004 1:12 pm

They should let people be able to go into the water part near the library. I've seen lots of kids do it even though there is a no wading sign. It's also cool in the winter to be able to walk or skate on the frozen lagoon.

What part would you even fill? I'm guessing it would look like a hill and disrupt the untiy and flow of the park and lagoon. It is nice to have the lagoon flow all the way from the library to the Missourri river.
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Postby Finn » Fri Aug 27, 2004 3:38 pm

I also like the sunken isolation but I do agree there needs to be some elevation to improve accessibility and make the mall more inviting and have a safer feel. However, I think this should be incorporated in a few key entrances (near the library) before sloping down to the water and not traverse the width of the mall. That would require either raising the lagoon in conjunction with the topography (losing the isolation) or it would create a sewer/conduit appearance for the lagoon if there is a large discrepancy with topographic elevation or if it travels under any elevated areas. I hope theay are able to mesh some elevated entrances with the continually sloping topography. I hope they can adjust the contours to eliminate some of the walls as they only serve to segregate areas of the mall.

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Mall as Catalyst

Postby guy4omaha » Fri Aug 27, 2004 7:07 pm

I have to agree with Spellman. Without the initial inertia of the Mall effort, I don't think all the TIF incentives in the world would have had traction. Admittedly an exaggeration but to make a point. How many remember how dismal this area looked when the first dozers began tearing down the old buildings to make way for the earthwork that would become the mall.

I question how many would want to put up a new structure, even with TIF, in the middle of such a blighted zone. The mall helped bring the vision of the likes of Gene Leahy and Alden Aust to reality so that others could grasp it and join the growing bandwagon.

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Postby Finn » Wed Sep 01, 2004 1:02 pm

I know the mall was beneficial and provided green space downtown. However, it was the controversial leveling of Jobbers Canyon and the development of the new ConAgra campus that brought life back to downtown Omaha. The mall was there for years before investment came around. Along with ConAgra's development came Heartland of America Park and soon after UP decided to rehabilitate the Harriman Dispatch Center. The Embassy Suites soon came and a succession of investments came to downtown (including smaller scale projects). The momentum did not see the amazing pace and price of investment over the last few years, but it was the ConAgra campus that fostered interest and investment in downtown! I am glad that there was the foresight to implement a large mall and greenspace into an urban area that was suffering. The project shows the acumen of those city leaders and the benefit remians.

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Central Park Mall

Postby guy4omaha » Wed Sep 01, 2004 1:36 pm

I can't disagree with the impact of ConAgra and all of the things you cite Finn. I don't remember the exact timeline of all of the building projects that came after the mall. But my recollection is that the Qwest building, the sprucing up of Swansons, the Central Park Plaza, the library, the Landmark Centre were all big projects that came before ConAgra. Several other developments also came the LiDioyt project, the Burlington, the Greenhouse and others.

So I can't help but ask that if all of this prior development had not taken place would ConAgra and UP chosen to build upon this prior momentum. Would we have build Heartland of America Park without being able to see it as a natural extension of the Mall.

No one will ever know for sure, but I think reasonable people could conclude that it is possible that withouth the Central Park Mall as it was called then, UP and ConAgra would not have wanted to build and invest in a very different Downtown than had existed before the mall.

If it sounds like I am arguing with you, I am really not. I just find the discussion and viewpoints stimulating. Before the mall, everyone I knew, myself included were just about ready to write off downtown. All of the retail, so to speak, had recently left. The place was just a dilapidated ghost town compared to what everyone at the time was used to. The Central Park Mall breathed the new life into the area and gave us hope to dream again.

The mall was the catalyst or original spark for wave one that I cite. And I think the mall and wave one were the impetus to wave two with UP, ConAgra and Embassy Suites, etc. I think our recent boom of the last five years is wave three. Hey, if nothing else, I bet we can agree on one thing:

Bring on Wave four.

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Postby Finn » Wed Sep 01, 2004 2:19 pm

I agree that some investment had taken place downtown. But the fact is that downtown was not a thriving employment center as many businesses (especially retail) had flocked to the suburbs. The impetus of ConAgra's decision to locate downtown culminated with the threat of the company relocating. ConAgra had lost a court case in the Nebraska court system to rival Cargill. The company noted this reflected on the business environment in Nebraska and that it would have to consider moving when the opportunity came. A few years later, the opportunity came, and the City bent over with incentives and even helped in the eminent domain proceedings and relocation of companies in Jobbers Canyon. The important items for the ConAgra development were city assistance and the demarcation of large tracts of land as blighted. This is similar to the current wave of development in downtown. The Quest Center, the riverfront development were helped with city participation and the designation of blighted land. This aided in the removal of the Asarco lead smelter, the scrap yard, etc. I love the mall but the few blocks of greenspace that it provides did not help lure a corporate campus. They created acres of new greenspace around their campus. It was incentives and assemblage of land. It was very important to keep the company in town and help the downtown employment center. I do agree that the mall could be seen as a first wave but not as important as the city help with ConAgra or the removal of Asarco (creating available land public/private cooperation/job growth). All of these things are dynamic and play a contributing role. Let's keep the momentum rolling. Here's to wave four!

I agree that the mall was and continues to be important for downtown. I hope the city will continue to implement greenspace and pedestrian friendly design in new developments. It certainly was not as easy when the mall was implemented. I feel that it is a very unique urban park and I hope the new study and subsequent improvements don’t change too much!

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Postby jiminomaha » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:08 am

Wow, this is very interesting reading these last few posts about some of the history of downtown Omaha Development. I moved to Omaha in August of 1995, and am very familiar with all the development since then, but everything before then is mostly unknown to me. I think the Embassy Suites opened just months after I arrived, or it had just opened, I can't remember. I do believe Jobbers Canyon was a wharehouse district where alot of blue collar people worked and also that the building that burned up in the Old Market this Spring was going to be called Jobbers Canyon. But I do wonder if Jobbers Canyon was where the Gene Leahy Mall is now, or was it where Conagra is now, or both? Or was it where the Old Market is now? Also, on another note, I've often wondered what the Old Market area was like before it was renovated into an entertainment area 20 years ago or so. Was it like the South Market (SoMa) area was about 5 years ago--mostly vacant and barren? If anyone would like to comment, I'd love to read about it. But again, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading these historical analysis postings and hope to see more. As one of my favorite sayings goes, "you can't get where you are going, unless you remember where you came from."

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Postby Finn » Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:36 am

Hey Jim!

Jobbers Canyon was a warehouse district in eastern Omaha that was named such because of the "canyon" aura experienced between the massive brick structures. It was not specifically defined geographically but was basically were the ConAgra campus and Heartland of America Park are now. One of the few remaining structures that was preserved is the Greenhouse residential community adjacent to ConAgra. These large structures were primarily used for warehouses but became functionally obsolete and only several remained in business. This also partly explains why preservationists rather than businesses waged the main fight against the blighted designation/demolition of the area. Today, a few of these companies (John Day Co., Nogg Paper and Chemical) reside north of the airport on Abbott Drive in modern warehouse/distribution facilities (with the help of City relocation as part of the eminent domain taking).

A new restaurant to be called Jobbers Canyon (416 S. 12th St.) is in the works despite a fire last summer. Check the “What's New” (August 31st) section of eomaha.com for a picture of the building.

As far as "what the Old Market area was like before it was renovated into an entertainment area 20 years ago or so," I would defer to other forum members as that is a little before my time.

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Postby StreetsOfOmaha » Thu Sep 02, 2004 3:23 pm

Well, the Old Market's been the Old Market for more than 30 years now. And directly before that I would assume it was still used as warehouses and probably still had a lot of wholesale fruit and vegetable distributors, since it was originally and historically the wholesale district. Would anyone like to add?
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Postby DTO Luv » Fri Sep 03, 2004 10:19 pm

There was a thing on PBS about Omaha's history and they had a big section about Jobber's Canyon. They were talking to the Mercer family and Frankey Pane about the area. As much as I like the ConAgra area and the park, the JC would have been worth keeping. It had 1.2 million square feet of space (more space than FNC at around 700,000+sq ft. and UP at 1 mil. sq ft.) that could have been movie theaters and more residences.

When my mom moved up here in '84 she said that the ConAgra Business Park wasn't there and that just outside of the OM core, their wasn't much going on. I remember the Embassy Suites opening but I don't remember what was there. I'm glad that I get to see all of the stuff that's going on now.
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Postby projectman » Fri Sep 03, 2004 10:50 pm

I can only remember back in the early 70's as a kid going down to the Old Market and seeing the hippies(or what I thought was hippies) playing guitars and reciting some kind of poetry. There were only a few shops along Howard St but I thought it was very cool.

Before then I am sure it was primarily warehouse and light industry as StreetsofOmaha stated. At that time Omaha was expanding west and southwest at breakneck speed so the area was not thought about much. I don't think there is much written in the history books about that area in the 40's, 50's and early 60's. Pretty dull reading.

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Gene Leahy Mall

Postby Coyote » Tue Sep 28, 2004 6:49 pm

An exciting new vision for 11th Street and the Gene Leahy Mall

The Gene Leahy Mall and the Old Market have been the lynchpins of downtown Omaha’s revitalization for nearly 40 years. They are two of the city’s most successful and recognizable public spaces.
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The Mall and Old Market have profoundly affected the downtown scene. Businesses have returned, gleaming new buildings have sprouted including the First National Tower, the Qwest Center, and soon the Holland Performing Arts Center.

The Old Market continues to buzz with activity and there are thousands of new apartments and condos with more on the way.

All these changes have lead Lively Omaha to take another look at the area and ask how can we extend and complement the success of the Old Market? Can the entire area be more comfortable for visitors, workers and residents who move through it primarily on foot? How can the Mall be more attractive and useful?

Lively Omaha has created the Leahy Mall / 11th Street Committee to begin developing new concepts for the Mall in it’s new role as a pedestrian connection from the W. Dale Clark Library, to the Qwest Center and from the Holland Performing Arts Center through the Old Market to the SoMa condominium project at 11th and Leavenworth. Elwin Larson, Executive Vice President, HDR, Inc. has been appointed Chairman of the committee. Committee members include representatives from the City of Omaha, Old Market Business Association, Downtown Omaha, Inc. and a local architecture firm.

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11th Street/Gene Leahy Mall Project Area

To help develop a new vision the committee reviewed proposals from nine nationally recognized landscape design and planning firms. After meeting with representatives of three of the firms, the Committee selected Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVAA) of Cambridge, MA.

MVVA has directed the design and construction of more than 350 landscapes for institutional, public and private clients across the United States and in Canada, France and Korea. Some of their projects include: Brooklyn Bridge Park Master Plan, Downtown Columbus Riverfront Park, Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House and Allegheny Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh. You can find out more about MVVA at http://www.mvvainc.com

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Gene Leahy Mall (view from Farnam Street)

MVVA is charged with the development of a community vision based on Place Games, charrettes and additional community input. They will prepare a concept plan for the area based on that vision. The work will focus on enhancing the environment of 11th Street from Leavenworth north to Farnam to serve as a model for the expanded Old Market Area, a pedestrian friendly corridor from 11th Street to the Holland Performing Arts Center, Hilton Hotel, entertainment venues and the Qwest Center Omaha north of Douglas Street and improvements to the Gene Leahy Mall.

On October 7th three sessions will be held to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both the Mall and 11th Street organized around three basic themes:

•Park circulation and urban connections
•Activity and programming
•Safety and comfort.

Please attend one of the sessions to share your point of view with MVVA and Lively Omaha. The meetings are: 8:30 am – 11:00 am, and repeated at 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm, or 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm so that all interested parties can attend.

Please return for the October 8th session that will summarize and illustrate the ideas from Thursday’s sessions with drawings and a scale model. There will be further discussion identifying the opportunities and challenges of the Gene Leahy Mall and 11th Street. The meeting will conclude with a discussion of the next steps involved in the creation of an area master plan. The Friday meeting will be held from 8:30 am – 11:00 am.

Feel free to stop by anytime during the sessions, even if you cannot to stay for the entire meeting and share this invitation with colleagues who might be interested. All sessions will be held downtown at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center,1313 Farnam Street. Parking is available in Omaha Park Two. For additional information and to RSVP, please contact Ellen Fitzsimmons ellen@omahafoundation.org or (402) 342-3458.
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Postby projectman » Tue Sep 28, 2004 7:41 pm

And this is open to the public? I would be interested if were at a different time outside of work.

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Gene Leahy Mall / 11th Street Public Forum

Postby SBNathan » Tue Oct 05, 2004 11:59 am

A couple weeks ago I posted a topic asking your recommendations on how the Gene Leahy Mall could be improved. The topic spawned lots of good discussion and many excellent recommendations. Now it's time to publically announce those strategies to the design team responsible for redesigning the Gene Leahy Mall.

I am an intern working with Lively Omaha and I invite all of you to attend one of the three sessions scheduled for this coming Thursday.

"Lively Omaha invites you to attend a community vision session for Gene Leahy Mall and 11th Street. On October 7th and 8th, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) will conduct the community visioning process as the first step in preparing a concept plan for the area. Thursday, October 7th, meetings will be held from 8:30am to 11:00am, 12:30pm to 3:00pm and 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Friday, October 8th, the concluding session will run from 8:30am to 11:00am. All sessions will be held at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center (1313 Farnam Street) with parking available at Omaha Park 2. The meetings are free and open to the public.

Gene Leahy Mall has been the focal point of downtown Omaha revitalization and redevelopment for 30 years. Today, however, with the development of downtown north and south of the park, the Mall needs to be re-examined as one of the great urban green spaces in our city.

Based upon input from citizens involved with the two Lively Omaha Place Games and two AIA sponsored charrettes, there is interest in re-examining the 11th Street as the most logical north/south pedestrian corridor between the Old Market, Gene Leahy Mall, the Holland Performing Arts Center and the Qwest Omaha Center.

On October 7th three sessions will be repeated on the strengths and weaknesses of the Mall and 11th Street organized around three basic themes:

- Park circulation and urban connections
- Activity and programming
- Safety and comfort

Please attend one of the sessions to share your point of view with MVVA and Lively Omaha.


Return for the October 8th session that will summarize and illustrate through drawings and a physical model, the ideas from Thursday's sessions. There will be further discussion identifying the opportunities and challenges of the Gene Leahy Mall and 11th Street. The meeting will conclude with a discussion of the next steps involved in the creation of an area master plan.

Additional information is available at www.livelyomaha.org.

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Gene Leahy Mall / 11th Street Public Forum

Postby SBNathan » Tue Oct 05, 2004 12:00 pm

A couple weeks ago I posted a topic asking your recommendations on how the Gene Leahy Mall could be improved. The topic spawned lots of good discussion and many excellent recommendations. Now it's time to publically announce those strategies to the design team responsible for redesigning the Gene Leahy Mall.

I am an intern working with Lively Omaha and I invite all of you to attend one of the three sessions scheduled for this coming Thursday.

"Lively Omaha invites you to attend a community vision session for Gene Leahy Mall and 11th Street. On October 7th and 8th, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) will conduct the community visioning process as the first step in preparing a concept plan for the area. Thursday, October 7th, meetings will be held from 8:30am to 11:00am, 12:30pm to 3:00pm and 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Friday, October 8th, the concluding session will run from 8:30am to 11:00am. All sessions will be held at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center (1313 Farnam Street) with parking available at Omaha Park 2. The meetings are free and open to the public.

Gene Leahy Mall has been the focal point of downtown Omaha revitalization and redevelopment for 30 years. Today, however, with the development of downtown north and south of the park, the Mall needs to be re-examined as one of the great urban green spaces in our city.

Based upon input from citizens involved with the two Lively Omaha Place Games and two AIA sponsored charrettes, there is interest in re-examining the 11th Street as the most logical north/south pedestrian corridor between the Old Market, Gene Leahy Mall, the Holland Performing Arts Center and the Qwest Omaha Center.

On October 7th three sessions will be repeated on the strengths and weaknesses of the Mall and 11th Street organized around three basic themes:

- Park circulation and urban connections
- Activity and programming
- Safety and comfort

Please attend one of the sessions to share your point of view with MVVA and Lively Omaha.

Return for the October 8th session that will summarize and illustrate through drawings and a physical model, the ideas from Thursday's sessions. There will be further discussion identifying the opportunities and challenges of the Gene Leahy Mall and 11th Street. The meeting will conclude with a discussion of the next steps involved in the creation of an area master plan.

Additional information is available at http://www.livelyomaha.org.

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Postby DTO Luv » Wed Oct 06, 2004 2:21 pm

I think I will go to the 12:30 meeting on the 7th. If any one else is there say hi.
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Postby eomaha » Wed Oct 06, 2004 3:30 pm

Omaha World Herald wrote:Public's ideas on retooling Leahy Mall sought

Omahans get their chances Thursday to voice, draw or sculpt what they want done - if anything - to Gene Leahy Mall and 11th Street.

The staff of landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh will set up shop at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center for a series of public meetings on how to improve the mall and the area around it.

"The mall is a great space," Connie Spellman of Lively Omaha told members of the Old Market Business Association. "We are not going to dig it out and start over."

The three sessions on Thursday examine the strengths and weaknesses of the mall and 11th Street in three ways:

• How people move in and through the park.

• Where activities and programming take place.

• What are the safety and comfort levels.

The meetings begin at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. On Friday, Van Valkenburgh will try to use the comments and ideas and discuss possible directions during a session that begins at 8:30 a.m.

Van Valkenburgh's firm was chosen from nine major national landscape architectural companies to work with Lively Omaha and city officials on making the mall more people-friendly.

Omaha officials began taking a new look at the mall after they realized that it is being underutilized and has become an obstacle to pedestrian traffic from the Old Market to the new entertainment venues north of the mall.

When the national architectural firms were being interviewed, Spellman said, all agreed that the "Old Market is a jewel. They told us to preserve it and protect it."

Van Valkenburgh's firm was chosen because it looked beyond the mall to how it fits in the city's fabric, Spellman said.

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Postby DTO Luv » Wed Oct 06, 2004 3:34 pm

I wonder if when they said draw your ideas if they mean bring them or you can draw something there. Does anyone else think they'll try to make a meeting?
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Postby projectman » Wed Oct 06, 2004 3:41 pm

I'd like to but i have to work. I hate when work gets in the way of my hobbies.

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Postby eomaha » Thu Oct 07, 2004 12:52 pm

I'm off tomorrow... I'm going to try making it down there.

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Postby DTO Luv » Thu Oct 07, 2004 3:58 pm

I made it and I suggest everyone really try to make at least one meeting. It was Omaha gold!Their was so much to tell so I'll split it in parts.

Gene Leahy Mall

ONe of the ideas I liked that was proposed was to make the park more visible from the outside. They would do this by cutting of the lower branches of trees so you could see from one end of the park to the other. The second part of the plan was to makde the parts of the land that are steeper into more of a stepped shape so you could see down to the water.

The bridge extending out from the arch was a given. They talked about how the Mall could be divided up into 4 sections. Civic. Which would be the west part near the Library used for big gatherings. Urban. Which is how the park as a whole fits into the city around it. Boundless. Which are places in the park that are quiet and used for thinking and laying on blakets and stuff like that. And the last one was more event oriented like for the Arts Festival adn Holliday LIghts.

Some suggestions from the open group session were to have the park have some sort of mini amphitheatre. Either near the Holland Center or between the Green House and the Burlington building. Larry Foster of the City Parks department had said that underneath the water there were colimns that could support a removable stage. It was one of the main purposes for the Mall at it's constuction but never came to light. The columns are still there for future use.

Some suggestions I had were for more and better bathrooms. The other I had was for more of what I called niche play spots. It came up over and over again that the park should be more ball and Frizbee friendly. It ain't gonna happen. The Mall is to small. I said that they should put in a fountain for kids to play in like at Crown Center in KC or the one at FNC. I also suggested a merry-go-round. The Mall can't be a "park" park but it can have it's own appeal for children.

A big plan that came up was to have the watter in the Mall move. ONe plan by LIvely Omaha was to put in rocks to add little waterfalls so you could hear the soothing sounds of running water. I actually like that idea.

There many people I met their. Even the starter of this thread SBNathan. Larry Foster was there. [/b]Frankie Pane was there. I talked to him about the eomaha site and he had heard about it from Jeff's fight it the World Herald. He said he would check the site out.

I think I will try and go back tomorrow to the morning or afternoon session and take notes so I can let you all know aobut some more of LIvely Omaha's plans.

Just a few more interesting facts I picked up at the meet. The Old Market is rated one of the [b]top 10 best urban places in America.
AND our neighbor to the south, Kansas City, is studying DTO and how to mimic it in DTKC. It was worth going to the meeting just to hear that.
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Postby Coyote » Thu Oct 07, 2004 9:25 pm

Mall tips include cutting trees, lagoon, corners

Public's ideas on retooling Leahy Mall sought

The Gene Leahy Mall suffers from too much water, too many trees and too many blind corners.

Remedies could be as simple as trimming low branches. Or they could be as radical as converting the downtown park's lake to a falling stream.

The diagnosis came from Matthew Urbanski, of the East Coast landscape architectural firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. The city and Lively Omaha, a privately funded initiative affiliated with the Omaha Community Foundation, hired the firm to examine the mall and the 11th Street corridor from Farnam and Leavenworth Streets that leads to the mall.

During the first of three public sessions on how to transform the mall, no one suggested leaving it as is. The most dramatic suggestion was to fill in the lake, converting it to a flat grass meadow.

Urbanski said that might go too far.

The lake, which runs the length of the mall, is 93 percent still water, Urbanski said. Moving water is much more interesting, he said.

To achieve that could mean filling in part of the lake to create a thinner ribbon of water, he said.

Converting part of the lake to flat land also would create more usable space for people, he told the group.

Urbanski broke down what's in the mall:

• 22 percent water.

• 20 percent steep and inaccessible landscaping.

• 37 percent paths and hardscape features such as rocks and concrete.

• 10 percent buildings.

• 2 percent level lawn.

• 10 percent usable landscaping on less-steep ground.

Only in 12 percent of the park can one spread a blanket or play a game, Urbanski said.

Urbanski and others who attended the public sessions said one of the biggest issues for the mall is security.

Mindy Bush said she lives in the Greenhouse apartment building on the east end of the mall and is an avid jogger, but "the mall is the one place I don't jog."

Councilmen Marc Kraft said police have told him that the perimeter wall and trees prevent officers in cruisers from seeing into the mall.

Urbanski's firm found 18 entrances to the park, 15 of them with blind corners.

"When you get to an entrance of a park," he said, "you don't want to feel like you are going to be jumped."

The corner of 14th and Douglas Streets is a good example of how trees with low-hanging limbs create a fear factor.

"The mood of this space is brooding," Urbanski said.

The trees have grown over the last 20 years and need to be thinned and carefully pruned, he said. They now form a hedgerow around and through the park.

The goal, he said, is to transform the Gene Leahy Mall into a miniature version of New York's Central Park.

After the three public "visioning" sessions Thursday, Urbanski and Michael Van Valkenburgh, the firm's founder, will review the ideas and present them at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center.

The firm will come up with preliminary concepts by November and make final recommendations in January.
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Postby DTO Luv » Sat Oct 09, 2004 7:54 pm

I totally forgot to talk about this in my last post. One of the ideas for 11th St. was to see some sort of building (preferably a tall one) built on the parking lot adjacent to the old Great Wall of China reastaurant across from the Landmark building. This would tie the heart of the OM into the Mall better. Some ideas for the lot were a grocery store, more OM type stores, and apartments/condos.

Another idea which was great was in the spots of the OM where their is concrete to turn it into cobblestone to extend the OM feel to other areas besides 11th & Harney. The awnings along Harney and 11th were seen as crucial in adding to the feel of the OM. Extending the awnings to other steets could meen the addition of stores and restaurants in the OM.

I didn't get to make it back again on Friday but it was a good way to generate public concern about the Mall and DT area.
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Postby Zephyr » Sat Oct 09, 2004 11:25 pm

DTO, those are some good ideas. The empty lot east of 11th Street definitely needs work. Too bad the Marriott Residence Inn didn't happen. The south half of that block is now owned by John Q. Hammons, owner of several hotels including E Suites.

I really wish I would've been able to attend the meetings! Ah, well, I am engaging myself in our FasTracks campaign instead.
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My Idea of a Gene Leahy Mall Improvement

Postby POTUS » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:20 pm

Consider the following:

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In this case, I have removed 10 city blocks of Omaha's downtown and replaced them with a quasi-Central Park of NYC public space. The victim businesses and residences surely won't mind. Of particular importance is my removal of the Clark Library. Simple solution: build a better one overlooking my new Gene Leahy Mall.

Notice also I placed some buildings a'la NYC's Fifth Avenue style. I think Omaha can handle it. I'm only talking 10 city blocks here.

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Re: My Idea of a Gene Leahy Mall Improvement

Postby Swift » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:26 pm

POTUS wrote:Consider the following:

Image

In this case, I have removed 10 city blocks of Omaha's downtown and replaced them with a quasi-Central Park of NYC public space. The victim businesses and residences surely won't mind. Of particular importance is my removal of the Clark Library. Simple solution: build a better one overlooking my new Gene Leahy Mall.

Notice also I placed some buildings a'la NYC's Fifth Avenue style. I think Omaha can handle it. I'm only talking 10 city blocks here.


That's an interesting idea, though I think it makes much more sense if it went north ten blocks into the area that is prime for development. Then you wouldn't have to tare down as many buildings, and would at the same time, provide added insentive for new buildings North of OM.

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Postby StreetsOfOmaha » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:27 pm

WOW?

Potus, are you crazy! :)

Take out 10 city blocks of building?!!! For a "quasi-central park"? That's exactly what Leahy Mall is, and that already claimed enough valuable urbanity downtown. I mean, Leahy Mall is great (who am I kidding? No it's not, at least not in its current form), but I think I'd rather have the historic building stock that it destroyed. I like the idea of a "central park", but it needs to be lined SOLIDLY with tall buildings to get the affect.
"The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is actually the right to destroy the city."
Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City, 1963

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Postby eomaha » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:33 pm

I think the 11th Street mall picked up on in one of the Lively Omaha place games is enough... if you want to create a swath of green space... run it between the Holland Center and Frankie Payne's place... through the parking lot and portions of the Pinacle property.

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Postby Swift » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:37 pm

jhuston wrote:I think the 11th Street mall picked up on in one of the Lively Omaha place games is enough... if you want to create a swath of green space... run it between the Holland Center and Frankie Payne's place... through the parking lot and portions of the Pinacle property.


Agreed, and into those open fields north of Qwest parking lots. Run it through the Qwest center parking lot! Give tax breaks for building high rise buildings right along it! Haha yes, taxbreaks for everyone!

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New Thoughts On My Expanded Gene Leahy Mall

Postby POTUS » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:42 pm

I think it's time we focused not only on the height of downtown, but the overall layout of it. It would be absurd to think we can't have neighborhoods in our DT. Notice in my (primitive Paintbrush) drawing that the Old Market now becomes anything from 10th-13th and Gene Leahy Mall south to the tracks. There is also an emerging 20th street district. And the sorta-business district of UP and 1st National and Woodmen.

It's time to push the density of the buildings in other directions rather than keeping them in the 15th-20th, Dodge-Harney area of DT.

And, StreetsOfOmaha, I think we will not lose valuable urban density by having a broad central park in DT. Rather, I think it will encourage more people to come DT, thus creating the need for services and business, thus more density. I don't think Central Park or San Antonio's Riverwalk are hurting them any...

And as far as historic buildings in that area, look at a picture of that area now. The tallest building there is maybe 6 stories. Sacrafice a little...

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Postby StreetsOfOmaha » Sun Nov 07, 2004 9:50 pm

I think we're ultimately thinking of the same goal for downtown, we just have opposing perspectives on how to get there.
"The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is actually the right to destroy the city."
Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City, 1963

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Postby Brad » Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:42 pm

Does anyone remember Hal Daub's "Idea" of having a San Antoino river walk connecting Carter lake to DTO.


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