The leaders of the campaign to revitalize Nebraska's Centennial Mall today reached a milestone in a four-year fund-raising effort with the announcement of a historic $2 million gift from a Nebraska native. The donation from Glenn Korff of Boulder, Colorado is the largest amount ever given to the Lincoln parks system. The gift will allow final construction to begin this summer on the seven-block Mall that connects the State Capitol with the University of Nebraska. With the campaign reaching its $9.6 million initial goal, the project will be completed in spring 2015 in time for the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2017. The $9.6 million includes construction costs and a $1.5 million endowment.
Korff was raised in Hebron and graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. After earning an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, Korff worked for Salomon Brothers from 1969 to 1974 and for Goldman Sachs from 1974 to 1992 in New York City. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1967 to 1973 and was cited as a military honor graduate on completion of his active duty. Since 1992, Korff has been semi-retired, managing Korff Holdings, a personal investment company. He is a fourth-generation Nebraskan.
"I am very grateful to have the opportunity to make this gift," Korff said. "This is a project that sells itself. The renovation of the Centennial Mall will benefit the State of Nebraska, the City of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus for generations to come. I am happy to be a part of it."
"This gift allows us to reach our initial construction goal and to revitalize this Mall so that all Nebraskans will enjoy it for many years to come," said Patty Pansing Brooks, who co-chairs the statewide campaign committee with Roger Larson and Mary Arth. "Glenn's gift, combined with others from across the state, will make this Mall beautiful, educational, historical and accessible for everyone. We give him our wholehearted thanks." The campaign will continue raising funds to underwrite additional enhancements to the initial construction plans.
Mayor Chris Beutler also thanked Korff and the other campaign donors. "With this incredible gift, we can begin construction of the Mall's four outer blocks earlier than expected," he said. "It is gratifying to see this long overdue project taking shape. We are extremely grateful to Glenn and the many supporters who have helped us through this journey. Remarkable gifts from generous people like Glenn inspire all of us to give back and do what we can to improve and preserve the places that mean so much to us."
With the entire $9.6 million committed, the City will now be able to start construction of the outer four blocks this fall. Construction and landscaping will be completed by late spring of 2015. Construction of the middle three blocks was completed this spring in coordination with a downtown street improvement project.
Envisioned by Capitol Architect Bertram Goodhue, Nebraska's Centennial Mall was built in 1967 to commemorate the State's 100th birthday. Visitors to the Mall include residents, tourists and 35,000 fourth grade students from across the state who visit the Capitol every year and use the Mall as part of their field trip focusing on Nebraska history.
The condition of the Mall has deteriorated over the years, and it has not been accessible. A master plan for renovation of the Mall was developed by the team of The Clark Enersen Partners, Bahr Vermeer & Haecker, Olsson Associates and Tom Laging. The plan was approved by Nebraska Capitol Commission which is chaired by the Governor as well as the Capitol Environs Commission.
The revitalized Mall will have durable accessible walkways and has been designed to accommodate a wide variety of activities and uses. Features will include the Capitol Fountain and Plaza featuring the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska, the Nebraska Plaza and Missouri River Fountain, the Platte River and Ogallala Aquifer plaza areas and the Sparking the Good Life Fountain and Plaza.
The Spirit of Nebraska Pathway is a series of granite and bronze tiles placed along the twin walkways that frame all seven blocks of Nebraska's Centennial Mall. The pathway program supports the Mall project and endowment fund by providing opportunities to sponsor tiles about famous Nebraskans and to recognize individuals, organizations and businesses. Over time, it is envisioned that these blocks will become a "Mosaic of Nebraskans" and their stories. The tiles range in cost from $1,000 to $25,000. More information is available at NECentennialMall.org
Last month, the campaign unveiled plans for a new interactive education system that includes QR (quick response) technology to give visitors access to more in-depth information through their smart phones or tablet computers. Educators can access the same website for additional information on these topics in their classrooms. Plans also are under way to install Wi-Fi and broadband systems.
Partnerships with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs and the agriculture industry also were announced in March. The new interactive education system provides an opportunity to provide a detailed account of their roles in Nebraska history.
The project is sponsored by the Lincoln Parks Foundation, and other major partners include the City of Lincoln; the State of Nebraska; Union Pacific; Windstream; the Lincoln Community Foundation on behalf of the Sheila Dickinson Dinsmore Graf Fund; the Lancaster County Visitor Improvement Fund; the Nebraska Environmental Trust; Burlington Northern Santa Fe; the Sunderland Foundation; the Dillon Foundation; Ameritas; First National Bank; State Farm; the Cope Foundation of Kearney; and the Junior League of Lincoln.
For more information about the project and sponsorship opportunities, call 402-441-8528 or visit NECentennialMall.org.