Riverfront aerial

Kristin Albers often bikes into Iowa, where she sees better trails with more curves and shade.

She hopes that Omaha — and its riverfront area — one day could embrace more bike-friendly features.

On Monday, she got to voice her opinion.

Albers was among the roughly 200 members of the public who expressed what they’d like to see happen to a large swath of the riverfront.

Led by a group of powerful leaders, the Riverfront Revitalization Planning Committee is seeking public input about how to transform key areas of the riverfront, including Gene Leahy Mall, Lewis & Clark Landing, Heartland of America Park and Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs.

The group — co-chaired by Ken Stinson, chairman emeritus of Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., and Valmont Chief Executive Officer Mogens Bay — is working to create an iconic riverfront that’s more visible, attractive and inviting.

The group, which includes city leaders from Omaha and Council Bluffs, and its study aim to come up with a plan that results in construction, Stinson said.

“This is not a practice exercise to end up on a shelf,” he said, noting that the group will build upon prior discussion.

It has selected The Office of James Burnett, which was founded in Houston and has offices on both coasts, as its consultant to come up with a proposal for the area.

The firm worked on the Klyde Warren Park, an urban deck park that was constructed over an eight-lane freeway in Dallas and has become a magnet for activity in that downtown.

The riverfront project team also includes Omaha’s HDR and Lamp Rynearson & Associates.

Stinson said the study will cost more than $1 million. It’s funded privately by the Downtown Riverfront Trust LLC.

Public records show Susan Morris as the trust’s president; C.E. Heaney Jr. as secretary; Jennifer Callahan as treasurer; and Stinson, Bay, Gary Gates and Jack Koraleski as directors. The trust’s principal address is listed as the same Regency office as Heritage Services.

Stinson and Bay both said they’re excited about the opportunities at Gene Leahy Mall. Raising the grade of the mall was among the ideas floated to attendees.

Attendees on Monday were asked to place stickers next to concepts they liked best. Food and beverage kiosks and waterfront dining were among the most popular. Other ideas included facilities and activities that cater to kids and dogs.

Attendees generally favored colorful and bright design elements over neutral colors, and fun design aesthetics over sophisticated ones.

James Burnett offered a number of ideas, from seating that overlooks the Missouri River to performance pavilions that could double as lunchtime seating during the day.

Bay said he’s happy that the process is moving forward with the help of the consultant and the philanthropic community, but also with cooperation from city leaders and the public.

“If you fast-forward 10 years, I hope (the consultant) will be able to, in some other town, show pictures of what happened in Omaha,” he said.

The group’s next public meeting is set for Oct. 26. There will be another on Jan. 30, when final concepts will be shared.

emily.nohr@owh.com, 402-444-1309

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