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North Omaha's Miller Park boasts scenic view for expanded pavilion

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North Omaha’s Miller Park boasts a million-dollar view from its newly renovated and expanded pavilion.

Actually, more like $2.1 million.

Refurbishment of the pavilion has been completed, and a focal point of the community building is its panoramic view of the park’s lagoon and golf course. The building features 3,700-square-feet of interior space, a kitchen and a 2,000-square-foot patio. After a ribbon-cutting Thursday, it’s already been booked for a weekend birthday party.

The renovations cap about $8.4 million in philanthropic-driven improvements at the park over the last five years.

About $6.7 million of that has gone toward general park improvements, including the pavilion, building an amphitheater, a walking trail, a dog park and sports courts. Most of that funding came from the Lozier Foundation.

A separate fundraising effort was the $1.7 million donated by the community to build Kerrie Orozco Memorial Ballfield to honor a beloved police officer who died in the line of duty.

At the pavilion’s ribbon-cutting, Omaha Parks Director Matt Kalcevich described the city’s partnership with Lozier as “very much the wave of the future” for parks in Omaha.

Neighbors around Miller Park, located at 2707 Redick Ave., say they are grateful to the Loziers, not just for the improvements, but also for their willingness to listen to the public’s concerns.

The Lozier Foundation has its roots in North Omaha. Allan Lozier, who died last year, grew up around Miller Park and located his business in northeast Omaha. He and his wife, Dianne, launched the foundation.

The foundation originally envisioned tearing down the more than a century-old pavilion and building something “shiny and new,” Dianne Lozier said.

Neighbors said they wanted the original building preserved, she said, acknowledging the added cost of working with an older building.

“But this is a much better outcome,” she said.

Historic preservation is important to the neighborhood, said Michelle Jackson-Triplett, president of the Miller Park-Minne Lusa Neighborhood Association. Minne Lusa, known for its bungalows and Craftsman-style homes, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Our neighborhood tends to feel overlooked in our wishes and desires,” Jackson-Triplett said. “To have a partnership with an entity that carries out our ideas is a refreshing thing — and it’s greatly appreciated.”

About 50 people attended the ribbon-cutting, including neighbors and youths who attend the Kids Can summer camp at the pavilion.

“I’m speechless,” longtime neighbor Suzanne Schonberner said of the chateau-style building’s spruced-up exterior. Schonberner said her family has been coming the park for almost 30 years. “We have enjoyed this for years and now we will continue to,” she said.

In her remarks, Omaha City Councilwoman Juanita Johnson noted that parks enhance property values for surrounding residents. Mayor Jean Stothert took note of the long work to bring the improvements to fruition and thanked former Parks Director Brook Bench for his role.

Jackson-Triplett said the renovations have brought people back into the park and given the community a place to be together. “It has been a solidly uniting and unifying force for the neighborhood,” she said.

At any given time, there’s probably someone exercising a dog, children playing at the splashpad or golfers taking in a round at the park’s Steve Hogan Golf Course.

Volunteers picking up litter is also a common sight.

“Its upkeep is paramount; we do need the support of our community partners,” Jackson-Triplett said with a nod to the Omaha Parks and Police Departments.

Kalcevich said the city’s next improvement at the park is completion of a $700,000 city-funded maintenance shed. Later this summer, a live-in caretaker will return to the park, which will help address neighbors’ concerns about sustained maintenance and security.

Kalcevich said the city would take into consideration other items on neighbors’ wish-lists, which include improved parking and added security cameras.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email: nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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