Papillion grabbed headlines on multiple occasions during 2019, and 2020 will be a year where the city works to set the stage for the future.
“We’re kind of wrapping up the last 15 years, now we’re going to launch the next 15 years,” Mayor David Black said.
In 2019, Facebook opened the first phase of its massive data center and Google announced plans to add one of its own on the industrial and data hub developing near Highway 50 and Highway 370. The city conducted the largest annexation in its history, increasing the city’s population around 15%. Papillion Landing Community Recreation Center and Field House, the origins of which came from council discussion in 2012, came to fruition this past year.
Past investment in the levee and dam system along Papillion Creek paid off as the city was protected from historic flooding this spring, and two more dam sites devoted to the same purpose are nearly complete.
Papillion also created its Limited Community Redevelopment Authority to guide improvements to the city’s downtown, which picked up momentum when the City Council in December approved negotiations with two developers’ proposals for the area.
Black said 2020 will be a year of transition as the city moved on from big projects like Facebook and Papillion Landing and prepares for the future. He said the city will complete a full overhaul of its comprehensive and strategic plans this year to prepare for what is to come.
“All of those documents stay in place no matter elected or professional staff as they transition in and out,” Black said. “Those fundamental documents are still there to guide that next generation of development.”
Several personnel changes from 2019 illustrate this time of transition. The city’s city attorney, library director and a longtime member of the Papillion Civil Service Commission all retired and were replaced by the next generation of the city’s leaders.
“We’ve known for the last eight years that every year we’re probably going to continue to see some of that turnover of the old guard and then new young professionals coming into the leadership positions,” Black said.
Development and economic growth will continue in 2020, Black said, and a lot of that will focus on downtown now that the city’s plans have some momentum.
“The stage that was set in 2019 was huge,” Black said.
New leadership, new amenities like Papillion Landing and new economic developments provide opportunities for the city to improve the way it serves its community, Black said.
“As we grow, how do we keep doing the great things we’ve been doing but not become blinded that we’re doing it the best way?” he said. “Let’s be open to new ideas and incrementally make changes as they make sense.”
One example of that is Urban Waters’ development near 132nd Street and Lincoln Road. Black said that development challenged the city in multiple areas, and that experience will allow Papillion to handle other ambitious or unique projects.
“I want us to continually learn how can we make those projects even a better experience so we see more and more of them,” he said.
Redevelopment isn’t the only area of focus for the city’s downtown. Black said the city will try to explore how to “calm” traffic along 84th Street to make the area more pedestrian friendly.
Since 84th Street was designed as a highway it is intended to move traffic and encourages speed, Black said. Plus, Nebraska’s state law is not as clear as in other states about when pedestrians have the right of way, an issue that came to light when a 10-year-old girl died from injuries after she was struck at a downtown intersection in August.
The city is considering addressing the right of way issue at the state level and implementing other safety measures in 2020.
“It’s not just about one street, one pedestrian crossing, but it’s about the whole downtown district and calming the traffic,” he said.
Papillion will also keep tabs on any state legislation regarding property tax reform or economic incentives and decisions made by the Sarpy County and Sarpy Cities Wastewater Agency.