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Editorial: Landscaping vision is set to boost downtown Omaha

Editorial: Landscaping vision is set to boost downtown Omaha

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A rendering of the Gene Leahy Mall renovation project, part of nearly $300 million in park improvements on Omaha’s riverfront. The project includes a spacious lawn for events, an urban beach, playgrounds for kids and a dog park.

For too long, downtown Omaha has lacked landscaping appeal and adequate greenspace. Gene Leahy Mall’s most prominent feature was the sunken lagoon. Lewis & Clark Landing, on the site of the former lead smelting complex, is topped with bare concrete. Heartland of America is picturesque but disconnected from downtown.

All that is about to change for the better in a big way. It’s a welcome step forward, not just in strengthening the visual attractiveness but, above all, in providing new, inviting public spaces for all to enjoy.

World-Herald reporting this week by Marjie Ducey highlighted another notable change: the creative landscaping at Millwork Commons in north downtown. The design approach aims to create a more natural environment featuring assorted native plants.

“I think landscaping is always a critical part of any development project,’’ said architect Megan Lutz. “We like the organic quality the district has had over the past decades.’’

Public greenspace downtown will be a priority once the transformation of Gene Leahy Mall and the associated riverfront revitalization are complete. Omahans and visitors will have a range of green open spaces for strolling and picnicking. This, in addition to new spaces for festivals and concerts as well as a ribbon-shaped rink for skating.

These are commendable examples of community vision, bolstering our quality of life.

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