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RIVERFRONT OVERHAUL

Overhaul of Omaha's riverfront parks continues as key features take shape

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Work continues on several future additions to the Omaha riverfront, including a new pedestrian bridge. The City of Omaha will contribute another $10 million to The RiverFront project.

For the next three weeks, a dredger will continue to grind and suck up sand and silt that swept into the marina during the 2019 flooding of the Missouri River.

As the Gene Leahy Mall again breathes life into downtown Omaha, an outline of what’s to come for the city’s two remaining downtown parks is beginning to take shape.

Visitors to the newly opened Gene Leahy Mall can stand on the eastern edge of the park — past the children playing, the downtown workers typing away on laptops and ducks splashing in the mall pond — and watch as construction on Heartland of America Park continues to expand toward the Missouri River.

With a glance toward the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, visitors can see that work also is underway on the northernmost component of the riverfront, Lewis & Clark Landing.

The construction sites are part of a public-private overhaul of Omaha’s downtown parks.

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Work continues Monday on the Omaha riverfront. The City of Omaha will contribute another $10 million to the RiverFront project.

In addition to the city’s $50 million contribution to the $400 million, three-park project collectively called The RiverFront, another $10 million from the city likely will be used to expand a trail system along the riverfront.

The Leahy Mall reopened last month with accolades and excitement after a more than three-year overhaul.

Heartland Park and Lewis & Clark Landing are on track to reopen in the summer of 2023. Even with a year to go, key features of both parks are beginning to take shape.

In Heartland of America Park, decorative concrete, similar to the sidewalks in the Gene Leahy Mall, is being installed. The park’s first shade structure has been built, and concrete walls for the skate ribbon have been poured, said Kristyna Engdahl, a spokeswoman with the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which manages The RiverFront project.

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Work is in progress on several future additions to the Omaha riverfront, including a new pedestrian bridge and skate ribbon.

The skate ribbon will be about the length of a football field and will offer ice skating in the winter and roller blading in the summer.

Crews continue to work on a maintenance building that will house an ice resurfacer and chillers that will keep the ice cold enough to skate on.

The park also will feature a lakeside amphitheater, bocce courts and Farnam Pier, which will stretch over the Missouri River.

“It’s starting to come together and is looking more like a park every day, which is exciting,” Engdahl said.

At Lewis & Clark Landing, foundations have been set for planters, shade canopies and an urban beach.

A restroom structure has gone up and construction crews hope to see some of the park’s play structures arrive in coming weeks.

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Work is in progress on several future additions to the Omaha riverfront, including a new pedestrian bridge and skate ribbon.

Also in the works is a $101 million riverfront science center funded by philanthropists called the Kiewit Luminarium.

The museum structure is expected to be completed in September, with exhibits to be installed over the following six months.

Among the attractions of the new center will be a “geometric climber,” in which visitors will be able to learn about the art and symmetry of geometry by walking and climbing through a two-story exhibit.

Another two-story exhibit space will be devoted to the science of materials. Visitors will explore the weight, strength and other qualities of materials used for construction and other purposes.

If all goes as planned, the state-of-the-art science center will be open to the public in April.

jwade@owh.com, 402-444-1067

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