- Amateur Sports
Ever since the College World Series, Omaha has a tradition of supporting amateur sports. Omaha has hosted the Olympic swim trials, Olympic curling, equestrian events. But we don't really do regional sports tournaments very well. Tranquility Park can be expanded and improved to host regional sports competitions.
- The Zoo
The Henry Doorly Zoo is Omaha's amusement park. For the first time in 12 years, there is no construction occurring. But what if they expanded into Rosenblatt, where parking is now? What if they acquire land to the south or east?
- The Airport
Currently, construction will join all the concourses behind one secure checkpoint. There is a lot of space available for expansion (if the runways can handle the load). The airport is near to Downtown, and there should be more transit options. (Express bus. Streetcar.)
- The Convention Center
First, MECA needs to add more events which use the entire building, like the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. These big events sell hotel rooms, make more money, and raise Omaha's reputation as a welcoming city.
- Professional Sports
Omaha has decent lower-league professional sports, with good fan support, as well as good management. The only question right now: Soccer. Where to build a stadium for United Omaha?
- The Kiewit Foundation
What if the Kiewit Foundation replicated the architecture program of Columbus, Indiana?
- Building density
This is already being addressed, but we need this everywhere. Replicate the many Main Streets in Omaha with every new development. Noddle is planning this for their farm project near Boys Town. You can still have detached single-family homes, but also townhomes, apartment buildings, condos...
- Connecting NoDo to the Old Market. (Old Ma?)
This is more challenging, at the Landmark Center creates a giant roadblock between the Old Market and the Mall. There's also some traffic problems caused by I-480 exits, the open expanse of the Mall, and advertising.
- Connecting the Landing to the Mall to Heartland to Old Market to NoDo
There are millions of dollars being spent on these three parks, but I am a bit pessimistic that it will be easy to walk between the Landing, the Mall, and Heartland without having to take the current detouring boardwalks.
- Vacant lots (ConAgra. Parking.)
If the Old Market is such a destination for dining and shopping and tourism, why are there so many empty lots in that neighborhood? Should not every plot have a building? There are plenty of parking garages nearby (ugh).
(And yes, let's close off the streets for emergency vehicles only. Deliveries can happen in the early morning, or overnight.)
And then there are empty lots over in ConAgraLand...
- Festivals! Fairgrounds!
Omaha needs an anchored location for festivals. Given that the Landing is mostly paved, that would be ideal, especially since it's isolated from the rest of Downtown by the Union Pacific rail line.
OOoooh... how far can it be expanded. Where? How far?
What is iconic? What adds excitement, glamour? What diminishes, degrades, denigrates, derogates? Where's the vision, the drive, the chutzpah to make Omaha rival Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, and Minneapolis?
Friday, May 27, 2022
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Disclaimer: I work for the Omaha Public Library.
I have seen some preliminary plans for the new Central Library before the general public.
What follows is not a critique of that design (which is being designed by Heritage Omaha and HDR, with some input from Library staff).
I have no insider knowledge. Most library staff have been kept uninformed in the planning process, although staff have been invited to watch online presentations in advance of the public announcement. Aside from a few emails sent, short conversations with coworkers, and a nice chat with some designers at the open house at the Sorenson Branch, I haven't had any interaction with anyone working on the current project.
All that follows is myself studying the site, the requirements, the vision, and the challenges of building a central library building which serves as an icon of a city which will foster learning, innovation, and imagination for the next 150 years! (Omaha's first public library opened in 1872. Omaha has a history of discarding library buildings after 40 years or so...we should build for forever.)
I am an armchair architect and amateur city planner. I have no formal training, just decades of studying urban design, appreciating existing architecture, and living in Washington, DC (one of the first planned cities in the world), and New York City for 24 years total. (DC: 3, NYC: 21) I'm the proverbial lab rat who has run the rat race for 25 years, and now has the perspicaciousness to suggest how the maze could be improved!
So, first, the site, at 72nd and Dodge Street in Omaha.
Here's the Google Map:
|Cropped from the DOGIS.org viewer|
|Property Address||PIN||Acres||Square Feet|
|7337 DODGE ST||800610002||0.6756||29427.987|
|7215 DODGE ST||801460054||0.4862||21177.134|
|7205 DODGE ST||801460078||2.0921||91130.3046|
- Eastbound traffic would turn right at 74th Street, then turn left onto Douglas Street.
- Westbound traffic would turn south onto 72nd Street and then right at Douglas Street (or Farnam, if Douglas cannot be extended to 72nd Street).
- Southbound traffic would do the same, turning right onto Douglas/Farnam.
- Northbound traffic would turn left at the stoplight at Farnam and 72nd Street, and then turn onto 74th Street.
Any pedestrian traffic would be routed around the library via Douglas Street, as both 72nd and Dodge streets are inhospitable to pedestrians walking along the roads, or trying to cross these streets.
There would be a crossing at 72nd and Farnam, where 72nd narrows, and offers a median for pedestrians. Crossings at that intersection could have their own interval with the stoplights, stopping traffic in all directions to offer greater safety to everyone.
To facilitate pedestrian access across Dodge Street, an underground concourse would connect the library parking garage to the underground parking at the Crossroads development immediately to the north, near the lot's western boundary at 73rd Street. City planners could copy the MTA's Under Bryant Park art installation, a pedestrian tunnel which connects the 7 subway line to the B/D/F trains under the iconic New York Public Library!
|This quotation is from James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, p.216 lines 2-5|
What once were robust reference sections are now relegated to a few shelves in most branches, as it is easier to access information which can change daily, and digital databases can offer a greater depth and breadth of information, charging the library either a flat fee for database access, or per-use if that is more economical. This trend will continue in the decades to come, as fragile documents are scanned for protection and to offer greater access to resources. There is also the fragmentation of desktop publishing. Where the 1984 Macintosh inspired numerous print newsletters via computer design, and the World Wide Web of the 1990s created a plethora of websites serving diverse audiences, social media since the Millennium has facilitated publishing for everyone, where anyone can communicate ideas and creativity, build an audience, and possibly even a community.
Then there are the spaces that all good central libraries have, but which are currently lacking in the Omaha Public Library system.
The biggest need is an auditorium space for lectures, screenings, and discussions. This is best placed underground, partly due to the needs of the space, and because of the infrequent use. The first basement level would be ideal, possibly opposite a gallery space.
Storage is another concern. Academic libraries keep titles for much longer, but move less popular titles to offsite storage where it must be requested for use later in the week. OPL doesn't have this great a need, although there are collections which are significant but which require instant access, such as genealogy or government publications. Compact and/or automated shelving can fulfill this need, and since weight loads are a concern, these materials could be placed in the bottom of the building underground, atop a reinforced foundation. This storage space can also hold other items, such as large print books, summer reading overstock, and surplus media.
- A minimum of five storeys. It must be large and iconic and hard to ignore!
- Small meeting rooms and study rooms are located on each floor, near the restrooms.
- The top floor is a multi-purpose ballroom which can be subdivided into smaller spaces.
- Fortified against tornadoes. (See: 1975)
- The children's floor would have a dedicated event space for storytimes and other events.
- If extra public space is required, offices can be relocated to the lower parking levels.
- As the Little Papillion Creek is half a mile away, the water table should not be a concern. But if it is, a "bathtub" can be constructed.
- The north and east facades are the WOW factor. Translucent by day, lit at night. LEDs? Built almost to the lot line, the ground floor would have protective barriers to prevent crashes.
- The south facade is the public face of the building, where the main entrance is located.
- The west facade: ground level has the cafe and the outdoor plaza. Above that can be a mural, perhaps a multi-paneled stained glass mosaic, highly visible from west Dodge Street. Since the cafe has an outdoor entrance, it can have different operating hours from the library.
- The outdoor plaza would have ground level access to the pedestrian tunnel under Dodge Street.
- The Friends Book Sale would have a permanent retail space on the first floor.
- Since this is an innovative building, it will be certified LEED Platinum.
- The roof would be green, creating a possible wildlife refuge in the middle of the city. A canopied event space on the roof can be rented to organizations, if regulations allow.
- One parking level could be reserved for city vehicle storage.
I'll have another post about the entire system, and what challenges must be addressed.
Please comment below, offer whatever criticism you feel is worthy, and please share!
I do hope that Heritage Services and HDR will host some design workshops so the public can offer their insights. I do know that OPL is hosting an open house on Sunday, May 22, for the public to engage with the design of the new downtown branch.