Nebraska’s beautifully designed State Capitol has stood tall as an example of Nebraska pride since 1934. In the 1960s, creation of the nearby Centennial Mall was intended as an inspiring follow-up. The seven-block series of plazas and fountains was to add a dramatic visual splash, literally, to the area.
Over the years, though, Centennial Mall has fallen on hard times, the fountains gone silent and bone-dry, the walkways and planters cracked and crumbling. Far from boosting state pride, Centennial Mall lamentably became an example of an urban failure if not an outright eyesore.
Fortunately, that’s about to be turned around, and just in time for the state’s 150th birthday in 2017.
A $9.6 million renovation campaign — the work of dozens of dedicated Nebraskans, supported by donations from government, corporations and foundations — has raised $7.7 million and is well on its way toward reaching the final fundraising goal. Union Pacific Railroad recently gave a generous donation of $500,000 toward the project.
The renovations will do more than restore the physical condition of the promenade. Plaques will provide descriptions of Nebraska history, and an interactive information system will enable visitors to learn more with the click of a smartphone or tablet.
The final phase of fundraising is being assisted by the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs as well as the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Farm Bureau. That’s fitting, since Native American history and agricultural history both will be featured prominently in displays at the renovated site.
Efforts to revive Centennial Mall have stretched over years, and the challenges have been many. It’s good to see the dedicated work by so many Nebraskans involved in this project finally coming to fruition due to conscientious planning and generous civic donations.
Upon completion, it will be a rededication not only of Centennial Mall but also of our shared commitment to work toward a brighter future for the state.