Renovating a Community: Think BIG!

Renovating your home may seem like a major project to you, but the community probably will take little note. By contrast, revitalizing a community has the potential to change the lives of thousands of people. Accordingly, a successful community renovation must begin with a big idea that inspires and motivates everyone involved. Schemmer faced this challenge in master planning a 1.2-square-mile area in the heart of north Omaha.

We began by identifying the area’s assets:

  • Topography – over 160 feet of elevation difference from historic Prospect Hill Cemetery down to the North Freeway
  • Developable land – over 22 acres of cleared land (formerly OHA’s Pleasant View Homes project)
  • Parks – Adams Park, at 60 acres, is one of the largest parks in Omaha without a golf course or large lake
  • Historical significance – the area includes the birthplace of Malcolm X, a site that now encompasses over 14 acres adjacent to Adams Park  • Connectivity – major thoroughfares include North 30th Street, Lake Street, and the North Freeway, requiring only a few minutes of driving to reach downtown Omaha
  • Residential diversity – housing ranges from 80-year-old foursquare homes to 40-year-old split levels and large hilltop contemporary homes

Next, we listened to area stakeholders, community leaders, city representatives, and most importantly, area residents. They told us about the need for affordable housing, a mixed-use commercial/residential community core, expanded recreational opportunities, neighborhood revitalizations, pedestrian-oriented streets, greater connectivity and increased access to jobs.

Based on community input, we have established two big goals and numerous strategies for implementing those goals. The first goal is to create a revitalized urban village core in which residents of all ages may live, work, shop, learn and play. The second goal is to transform Adams Park and the Malcolm X Memorial Birth Site and International Center (a regional recreational/cultural area in north Omaha) into a major destination that serves as a catalyst for residential growth and neighborhood redevelopment. All of the implementation details of project development fall under these two goals.

How do you revitalize a community? Make no little plans—make big plans that inspire and motivate everyone involved.