State and local leaders today celebrated Statehood Day today by kicking off the public fundraising campaign for the renovation of Nebraska's Centennial Mall. The seven-block connection between the State Capitol and the University of Nebraska campus was built in 1967 to commemorate Nebraska's 100th birthday. A statewide fundraising team consisting of five former Governors and other volunteers has raised $5.7 million of the project's $9.6 million cost.
"In 2009, the City of Lincoln committed $3 million as seed money to start this process," said Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. "We are very excited about the partnerships that have been formed, the support from groups across the State and the generosity of the initial lead donors who have committed funding to help restore this historic Mall to a place of pride for all Nebraskans."
The ceremony at the State Capitol Rotunda also featured the recognition of lead donors and the announcement of the Spirit of Nebraska Pathway program. Other speakers included Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy; Campaign Leader Patty Pansing Brooks; Larry Hudkins, Lancaster County Board of Commissioners; Barbara Bartle, Lincoln Community Foundation; Liz Ring-Carlson, State Farm; Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Johnson; and Jeff Searcy, Capitol Environs Commission.
The Mall, from "K" to "R" streets in downtown Lincoln, is an attraction for residents, tourists and the 35,000 fourth graders from across the State who visit the Capitol and Mall as part of their field trip focusing on Nebraska history. Over the years, the condition of the Mall has deteriorated, and it is no longer accessible for all. A master plan has been developed by a team including The Clark Enersen Partners, Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects, Olsson Associates and Tom Laging. The plan has been approved by the Capitol Environs Commission and the Nebraska Capitol Commission chaired by Governor Dave Heineman.
Construction on the middle three blocks from "M" to "P" streets will begin by early summer 2012. Depending on fundraising, the outer four blocks are expected to be completed by 2014 in time for Nebraska's 150th birthday in 2017.
The redesign will celebrate Nebraska's legacy of stewardship, create durable accessible walkways and provide for optimal flexibility to accommodate a wide variety of activities and uses. Features include:
The $9.6 million total cost of the project includes a $1.5 million endowment for maintenance. The $5.7 million raised so far includes $3 million from the City of Lincoln; $550,000 from Windstream; $500,000 from the Lincoln Community Foundation on behalf of the Sheila Dickinson Dinsmore Graf Fund; $500,000 from the Lancaster County Visitor's Improvement Fund; and about $1.15 million from other donors. Other funding partners include the Nebraska Environmental Trust, State Farm, the Cope Foundation of Kearney, the Junior League of Lincoln and private donors. The project is sponsored by the Lincoln Parks Foundation.
"Our fundraising team feels a tremendous obligation to reach out across the State and invite everyone to participate in this amazing project," said Pansing Brooks. "Just a few weeks ago, we visited leaders and donors in Kearney, Lexington, North Platte and Scottsbluff. Everyone was supportive and expressed excitement about the vision and plans for Nebraska's Centennial Mall."
"We believe we have a strong obligation to restore this Mall so it can be educational and accessible, not only to the 35,000 school children who visit it every year, but to visitors from across the State and those who visit Nebraska," said Hudkins. "We are thankful for this opportunity to be part of this historic project and look forward to celebrating its completion in a few years,"
"The Lincoln Community Foundation on behalf of the Sheila Dickinson Dinsmore Graf Fund, is very pleased to be part of the Nebraska Centennial Mall project, which is so important to our community and to the entire state," said Bartle. "After 45 years, the need for improvements is long overdue and necessary to make this area safe and beautiful again."
"Nebraska's Centennial Mall has a wonderful location in vibrant downtown Lincoln at the front door of our beautiful Capitol building," said Ring-Carlson. "State Farm is proud to support transforming the space into an exciting destination for all Nebraskans."
The Spirit of Nebraska Pathway is a series of granite and bronze tiles placed along the twin walkways that frame all seven blocks of the Mall. The pathway program provides opportunities to sponsor tiles about famous Nebraskans or to recognize individuals, organizations and businesses. All 93 Nebraska counties will be recognized. It is envisioned that these blocks will become a "mosaic of Nebraskans" and their stories. Tiles range from $1,000 to $25,000.
More information on the project and donor options is available at NECentennialMall.org.