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In a North Omaha state of mind …

July 26, 2017 1 comment

In a North Omaha state of mind …
As many of you know, North Omaha holds a special place in my heart. I grew up there and went to school there (Holy Name). Through age 47, my home address was 4129 Maple Street. I began writing about North Omaha while still a North O resident. Since moving to northwest Omaha, my interest in North O has remained strong and I continue making it a subject of my work. With Native Omaha Days here and the Bryant-Fisher 100th family reunion coming up, I felt nostalgic about the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve committed to that community.

So, without further adieu, enjoy this curated list of links to North O stories from my archive. Some go back a minute. Others are as recent as this month. Hopefully, the articles provide a fair and balanced view of that community: past, present and moving forward.

African-American Empowerment Network | Leo Adam Biga’s My …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/african-american-empowerment-network/‎

Overarching plan for North Omaha development now in place – The …
http://thereader.com/news/overarching_plan_for_north_omaha_development_now_in_place/.

North Omaha beckons investment, combats gentrification
https://www.morningsky.com/omaha/…/north-omaha-beckons-investment- combats-gentrification

Behind the Vision: Othello Meadows of 75 North Revitalization Corp.
https://morningsky.com/…/othello-meadows-lifting-up-a-community-called- home

North Omaha: Where for art thou? | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/2017/03/…/north-omaha-where-for-art-thou/

North Omaha: Voices and Visions for Change | Leo Adam Biga’s My …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/north-omaha-voices-and-visions-for-change/‎

Black Lives Matter – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/From_Social_Media_to_the_Streets/

Malcolm X Memorial Foundation coming into its own – The Reade
http://www.thereader.com/post/malcolm_x_memorial_foundation_coming_into_its_own.

Two to One – The Reader
http://thereader.com/visual-art/two_to_one/

Returning To Society – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/returning_to_society/

Girls, Inc. Expands & Renovates – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/girls_inc-_expands_renovates/

North Star Foundation | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/north-star-foundation/

Where Hope Lives, Hope Center for Kids in North Omaha | Leo …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/where-hope-lives-hope-center-for-kids-in-north- omaha/

The Nelson Mandela Way | Omaha Magazine
http://omahamagazine.com/articles/the-nelson-mandela-way

Play considers North Omaha history through the eyes … – The Reader
http://thereader.com/arts/play_considers_north_omaha_history_thorugh_the_eyes_of_mildred_bown/.

Change, it’s been a long time coming for northeast Omaha – The …
http://thereader.com/news/change_its_been_a_long_time_coming_for_northeast_omaha/

Next generation of North Omaha leaders eager for change – The …
http://thereader.com/news/next_generation_of_north_omaha_leaders_eager_for_change/.

Abide applies holistic approach to building community – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/abide_applies_holistic_approach_to_building_community/

Making community – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/making_community/.

Big Mama, Bigger Heart | Omaha Magazine
http://omahamagazine.com/articles/big-mama-bigger-heart/

Entrepreneur and craftsman John Hargiss invests in North Omaha …
http://thereader.com/visual-art/entrepreneur_and_craftsman_john_hargiss_invests_in_north_omaha/.

Revival of Benson Business District Gives Omaha a New …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/revival-of-benson-business-district-gives-omaha-a -new-destination-place/‎

Omaha Northwest Radial Hwy | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/omaha-northwest-radial-hwy/

A Brief History of Omaha’s Civil Rights Struggle Distilled in Black …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/a-brief-history-of-omahas-civil-rights-struggle- distilled-in-black-and-white-by-photographer-rudy-smith/‎

A WASP’s racial tightrope resulted in enduring book – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/a_wasps_racial_tightrope_resulted_in_enduring_book/

When New Horizons dawned for African Americans in Omaha – The …
http://thereader.com/news/when_new_horizons_dawned_for_african_americans_in_omaha/

De Porres Club | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/de-porres-club/‎

UNO Wrestling Dynasty Built on a Tide of Social Change – OnToplist …
http://www.ontoplist.com/articles/uno-wrestling-dynasty-built-on-a-tide-of-social-change_4c46fa1dc6d11/

[PDF] civil rights: standing up for what’s right to make a difference
https://www.education.ne.gov/nebooks/ebooks/peony_park.pdf‎

Goodwin’s Spencer Street Barber Shop – Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside …
https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/29/goodwins-spencer-street-barbershop-we-cut-heads-and-broaden-minds-too/.

Free Radical Ernie Chambers – The Reader
http://www.thereader.com/post/free_radical_ernie_chambers.

North’s Star: Gene Haynes builds legacy as education leader with …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/norths-star-gene-haynes-builds-legacy-as- education-leader-with-omaha-public-schools-and-north-high-school…

Preston Love, His Voice Will Not Be Stilled | Leo Adam Biga’s My …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/preston-love-his-voice-will-not-be-stilled/‎

Cool Cat Billy and the Sportin’ Life | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/2010/07/01/sportin-life/‎

Wesley House | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/wesley-house/

Coloring History, A Long, Hard Road for UNO Black Studies | Leo …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/coloring-history-a-long-hard-road-for-uno-black- studies/

Burden of Dreams: The Trials of Omaha’s Black Museum | Leo Adam …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/burden-of-dreams-the-trials-of-omaha’s-black- museum/

Great Plains Black History Museum Asks for Public Input on its …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/great-plains-black-history-museum-asks-for- public-input-on-its-latest-evolution/‎

Long and Winding Saga of the Great Plains Black History Museum …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/long-and-winding-saga-of-the-great-plains-black- history-museum-takes-a-new-turn-2/

‎Charles Hall’s Fair Deal Cafe | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/2016/05/11/charles-halls-fair-deal-cafe/

Soul Food | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/soul-food/

Chef Mike Does a Rebirth at the Community Cafe | Leo Adam Biga’s …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/chef-mike-does-a-rebirth-at-the-community-cafe/

Time Out Foods | Omaha Magazine
http://omahamagazine.com/articles/tag/time-out-foods/

Omaha Rockets Kanteen | Omaha Magazine
http://omahamagazine.com/articles/tag/omaha-rockets-kanteen

A synergy in North Omaha harkens a new arts-culture … – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/a_synergy_in_north_omaha_harkens_a_new_arts-culture_district_for_the_city/

Art as Revolution: Brigitte McQueen’s Union for Contemporary Art …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/art-as-revolution-brigitte-mcqueens-union-for- contemporary-art-reimagines-whats-possible-in-north-omaha/

Brigitte McQueen Shew’s Union of art and community uses new Blue …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/brigitte-mcqueen-shews-union-of-art-and- community-uses-new-blue-lion-digs-to-expand-community-engage…

Loves Jazz & Arts Center | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/category/loves-jazz-arts-center/

Carver Building Rebirthed as Arts-culture Haven; Theaster Gates …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/carver-building-rebirthed-as-arts-culture-haven- theaster-gates-rebuild-and-bemis-reimagine-north-omaha/‎

Artists running with opportunity to go to the next level; Carver Bank …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/artists-running-with-opportunity-to-go-to-the- next-level-carver-bank-resident-artists-bring-new-life-to-area/‎

Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/category/omaha-black-music-hall-of-fame/

Making the Case for a Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame | Leo …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/making-the-case-for-a-nebraska-black-sports-hall -of-fame/‎

The Artist in the Mill: Linda Meigs Brings Agriculture, History and Art …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/linda-meigs-brings-agriculture-history-and-art- together-at-florence-mill/‎

The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside …
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/the-rhythm-boys-of-omaha-central/‎

A Homecoming Like No Other – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/a-homecoming-like-no-other/

Native Omaha Days: A Black is Beautiful Celebration, Now, and All …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/native-omaha-days-a-black-is-beautiful- celebration-now-and-all-the-days-gone-by/

Bryant-Fisher | Omaha Magazine
http://omahamagazine.com/articles/tag/bryant-fisher/.

A Family Thing – The Reader
http://thereader.com/news/a_family_thing/

Good Shepherds of North Omaha: Ministers and Churches Making a …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/the-shepherds-of-north-omaha-ministers-and- churches-making-a-difference-in-area-of-great-need/

Heart Ministry Center | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/category/heart-ministry-center/‎

Sacred Heart Freedom Choir | Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories
https://leoadambiga.com/tag/sacred-heart-freedom-choir/‎

Salem’s Voices of Victory Gospel Choir Gets Justified with the Lord …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/salems-voices-of-victory-gospel-choir-gets- justified-with-the-lord/

When Omaha’s North 24th Street Brought Together Jews and Blacks …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/when-omahas-north-24th-street-brought-together -jews-and-blacks-in-a-melting-pot-marketplace-that-is-no-more/‎

OUT TO WIN – THE ROOTS OF GREATNESS: OMAHA’S BLACK …
https://leoadambiga.com/out-to-win-the-r…k-sports-legends/

Opening Installment from My Series Out to Win: The Roots of …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/from-my-series-out-to-win-the-roots-of-greatness -an-exploration-of-omahas-black-sports-legends/‎

Closing Installment from My Series Out to Win: The Roots of …
https://leoadambiga.com/…/closing-installment-from-my-series-out-to-win- the-roots-of-greatness-an-exploration-of-omahas-black-sports-legen…

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My Small Business Story

November 2, 2016 Leave a comment

My Small Business Story
As someone who writes stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions, I plug into what makes people tick and share their personal brand with the world. My work as an author-journalist-blogger introduces me to remarkable individuals whose stories I tell in books, articles and posts. Just as I find inspiration in these subjects, so do my readers. How do I know? Nearly every day I get to speak with or write about fascinating people whose stories affect me in some way. Readers tell me they are variously moved or stimulated by what I write.
 
Indeed, my mission as a writer is to inform, educate and entertain. If I can make readers feel and think, to learn and grow, to break away from the mundane, then I have done my job.
 
It has been my privilege to write about topics that affect my community, including issues having to do with race. On those occasions I believe my work does make a difference by giving voice to the voiceless and providing context for complex subjects. I have also had the opportunity to travel for my work, including reporting assignments in Africa, Washington DC, Hollywood, North Dakota and the greater Midwest.
 
There is an old saying that everyone has a story and I wholeheartedly believe that. Each of us has something to say and to offer. It is my great pleasure to give people a platform in which they can be heard.
 
I have entered the LinkedIn ProFinder Small Business Contest. Should I win, I would leverage LinkedIn and LinkedIn ProFinder to find new stories to tell, collaborators to work with for telling these stories across different channels and sponsors to support these projects. LinkedIn and LinkedIn ProFinder could also afford new opportunities for me to travel inside and outside Nebraska in search of stories and to conduct research. These tools would also enable me to hire an expert to enhance and coordinate my social media.
 
Additionally, I would leverage LinkedIn and LinkedIn ProFinder to help realize two dream passion projects of mine:
•the multi-media Nebraska Screen Heritage project
•the multi-media Omaha Black Sports Legends project
 
LinkedIn and LinkedIn ProFinder are wonderful tools for engagement and connectivity among thought-leaders, service providers and professionals from diverse disciplines. These tools can help bring stories to larger audiences and thus allow this work to make an even bigger impact.
 
We are all experts in our own fields and specialties but nobody knows it all. Therefore, I am eager to strategically use LinkedIn and LinkedIn ProFinder as tools for exploring collaborative partnerships. It will facilitate sharing stories across broader canvases in some cases and within niche segments in other cases. It is all about finding the right audience for a particular message or story.
 
Storytelling is my craft, my trade, my livelihood, my calling. Consider this post a call for likeminded individuals to work with me in telling compelling stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions.

 

To all the writers I’ve loved before…

October 10, 2016 1 comment

Being Jack Moskovitz, Grizzled Former Civil Servant and DJ, Now Actor and Fiction Author, Still Waiting to be Discovered

 

To all the writers I’ve loved before…
If you’re a longtime follower, then you know by now I like making lists. It’s not that I don’t have anything better to do, it’s just that it helps give my mind a focused distraction from whatever the real task at hand is, which is usually a writing project or two or three or four…Oh, well, you get the idea.

So, the other day I began listing out as many of the writers I’ve written about over the years that I could recall. I knew it would be a long list, but it turned out longer than I expected. I mean, it’s a very broad and impressive group of writers, some of whom don’t make their living as writers, But in any case they are variously journalists, essayists, poets, novelists, biographers, memoirists and in many instances combinations of these things. I interviewed them all and in most cases wrote profile of them as well. In some cases I quoted them as part of more general features related to their work or project or program. I enjoy speaking to and writing about fellow soldiers of the craft. Read their names below and see how many you recognize and if you’ve read anything by them. Most are Nebraska native or transplant authors but a fair number are not from here.

There are some Pulitzer, National Book Award, Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Poet Laureate and other writing prize nominees and winners among their ranks.

Before I release you to the list, please note that the names are not listed in any particular order – just when their occurred to me. And you can find what they spoke to me about and what I wrote about them and their work by visiting my blog, https://leoadambiga.com/:

Ron Hansen
Richard Dooling
Timothy Schaffert
Rachel Shukert
Beaufield Berry
Ellen Struve
Max Sparber
Summer Miller
Denise Chapman
Scott Working
Kevin Lawler
Doug Marr
James Reed
Robert Reed
Bobby Bridger
Ted Kooser
William Kloefkorn
Roger Welsch
Dick Cavett
Milton Kleinberg
Jack Moskovitz
Joy Castro
Zedeka Poindexter
John Hardy
Stew Magnuson
Colleen Reilly
Warren Francke
Sean Doolittle
Alex Kava
David Krajicek
Michael Kelly
Lew Hunter
Alexander Payne
Jim Taylor
Carleen Brice
Tekla Ali Johnson
Jami Attenberg
Scott Muskin
Will Clarke
Faith Ringold
Isabel Wilkerson
Jon Bokenkamp
Nik Fackler
Eileen Wirth
Kurt Andersen
Edward Albee
Arthur Kopit
Mac Wellman
John Guare
Caridad Savich
Kia Corthron
Megan Terry
Jo Ann Schmidman
Larry Williams
John Nagl
Howard Silber
Robert Jensen
Otis Wesselman
Preston Love Sr.
Laura Love
Robert Nelson
Joan Micklin Silver
Howard Rosenberg
Thom Sibbitt
John Kaye
Lou Leviticus
Dan Mirvish
James Marshall Crotty
Matt Mason
Nancy Rips
Bill Ramsey
Betty Dineen Shrier
David O. Russell
Jason Levering
Hawk Ostby
Bob Hoig
Ron Hull
Patrick Jones
Rebecca Rotert

Welcome to Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories @ leoadambiga.com


 

File:A typewriter (10995863465).jpg

 

Welcome to Leo Adam Biga’s My Inside Stories @ leoadambiga.com, where–

I write stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions

Here are some cover story images associated with my blog posts. The stories represented by these images, like every post on the blog, are written by me. You can click on some of the covers to access the stories.

I invite you to visit the site, take a little or a lot of time, explore and enjoy the ride. Be sure to bookmark favorites and share links with family and friends.

I invite you to join thousands of others in following the blog. You can get email or Facebook updates whenever I post.

The blog by the way feeds into my Facebook page, My Inside Stories, as well as into my Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Tumblr, AboutMe and Amazon pages.

Hope to see you here again @ leoadambiga.com

The site for My Inside Stories about people’s passions & magnificent obsessions

A compendium of Arts, Entertainment, Culture, Lifestyle, Sports, Style, Fashion, History, Society, Issues, Personalities, Creatives, Entrepreneurs and More

AS YOU CAN SEE, DIVERSITY IS THE NAME OF MY GAME

 

The Reader Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2011The Reader 1-13-2011
The Reader Nov. 3, 2011
Iraq War Veteran Jacob Hausman Battles PTSD and Finds Peace | Leo Adam Biga's Blog:
 El Perico February 12, 2015
HV_04.10_covernoupc
magazine
 
 
The Reader Dec. 11-17, 2014The Reader Feb. 13-19, 2014
The Reader Sept. 18 - 24, 2014The Reader Aug. 21-28, 2014
The Reader July 10 - 16, 2014The Reader Sept. 25 - Oct. 1, 2014
The Reader Jan. 9, 2014The Reader July 17-23, 2014
The Reader May 24 - 30, 2014The Reader Feb. 27 - March 5, 2014
The ReaderThe Reader Jan. 30 - Feb. 5, 2014
The Reader Dec. 4 - 10, 2014The Reader Oct. 16 - 22, 2014
The Reader Oct. 30 - Nov. 5, 2014The Reader March 3, 2011
The Reader Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2014The Reader Aug. 14-20, 2014
The Reader March 20 - 26, 2014The Reader
The Reader Oct. 13, 2013The Reader Oct. 3, 2013

The Reader 2-10-2011

New Horizons Newspaper's photo.
New Horizons Newspaper's photo.

 New Horizons Newspaper's photo.

New Horizons Newspaper's photo.
New Horizons Newspaper's photo.

Real talk about community matters from your friendly neighborhood thought-leader – Omaha author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga


 

 

Real talk about community matters from your friendly neighborhood thought-leader – Omaha author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga

Nick Hernandez recently interviewed me on his “Community Matters” show for Lincoln’s KZUM. Listen to this far-ranging interview about culture, well-being, Alexander Payne, “Sideways”, friendship, love, community and why I write about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions at–

Mauro Fiore: Writing with Light

Someone recently called me “a thought-leader” and it truly is a description and a skill set I identify with and own.

As a writer I am expert at creating narratives that frame issues, ideas, trends, events, achievements and history in whatever context you need in order to tell your story and to deliver the message and image you want to convey.

I am available on a per project or by retainer basis.

Sample my work at leoadambiga.com.

Send your project specs to me at leo32158@cox.net.

Looking forward to being the lightning rod that activates, animates and illuminates a whole new level of engagement with your organization. With my help, the story of who you are and what you do will shine bright.

–Leo Adam Biga, Author-Journalist-Blogger, Omaha, Nebraska

Let my writing cut through the clutter to make you shine


 

Image is everything in doing business, so let my writing cut through the clutter to make you shine.

 

Behind every organization is a story about people. Let me tell the human story of your company or nonprofit through whatever platform you desire: Website content, blog post, press release, newsletter, brochure, article, white paper, script, book. I am skilled in each medium. I will get to the heart of the matter because of my interviewing and storytelling expertise.

My tagline of “I write stories about people, their passions and their magnificent obsessions” is more than a handle, it is what I do and deliver. Story after story, project after project. Long form or short form. Online or in print.

People and what makes them tick are always at the center of the stories I tell. Let me showcase your people. Each one of them. Their passion and personality, their dreams and ambitions, their achivements and awards, their lessons learned, their risks taken. Let me describe how their innovations and successes have moved the organization forward. I will illustrate their administrative, managerial, entrepreneurial, creative, collaborative and team leadership and team building skills. When I get through featuring them, your people will shine like the experts, professionals and rock stars they are. Most importantly, your organization’s story will be framed against the compelling personal profiles of your most important assets and resources – your people. Because, as you know, your organization is only as good as its people.

Let me bring to light everyone and everything that makes your organization special. It will be my privilege to help raise awareness and appreciation for all that your people do and for all that your organization does.

If you are looking for a new and traditional media campaign to highlight your organization or event, I can help with that, too. I bring years of experience as a media expert and liaison as well as thousands of followers across different social media platforms.

 

Testimonials:
“I’ve long admired Leo Biga’s journalism and prose portraiture for its honesty, thoughtfulness, and accuracy. On a personal note, throughout many years of being interviewed, I find Mr. Biga’s articles about me to be the most complete and perceptive of any journalist’s anywhere. They ring true to me — even in critique — in a way that reveals the depth of his talent in observation, understanding, and expression.” –Alexander Payne, filmmaker (Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska)

“Leo Adam Biga portrays his subjects with both precision and generosity, practicing a literary journalism that is enlightening, honest, and immensely readable. His writing is eloquent and provocative, and quite often moving.” –Timothy Schaffert, novelist/educator (The Swan Gondola)

“Leo Adam Biga is an astute, conscientious journalist whose interviews and articles have been widely admired for their accuracy, generosity, depth, and perceptiveness. I would position him among the finest of our national reporters on the arts and culture.” –Ron Hansen, novelist/educator (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)

“Leo Biga personifies one of H.L. Mencken’s more memorable observations: ‘There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.’ Biga consistently teaches and delights, not with showy vocabulary or flashy syntax, but by placing his prodigious talents in the service of his subject and his readers.” –Richard Dooling, author/educator (White Man’s Grave and Brain Storm)

“Leo is one of the best prepared and most thorough writers I’ve ever worked with. With painstaking detail he builds well-crafted, well-researched stories that are a pleasure to read. Leo is truly one of the finest wordsmiths around.” –John Heaston, Publisher, The Reader

“Leo is a talented writer who handles each assignment with passion, style, and a commitment to quality.” –Jeff Reinhardt, Editor, New Horizons

“Leo is one of those inquisitive writers who knows just what probing questions to ask in order to get a fascinating story. He provides the Jewish Press with a behind-the-scenes look at people doing extraordinary things in their lives.”–Carol Katzman, Former Editor, Jewish Press

Recommendations:

“I’ve been fond of Leo’s writing for years. Lucky enough to sit down with him a year or so ago, I got to meet the talented and versatile writer behind those well-chosen words. Recently, we worked together on a story about the Heartland Latino Leadership Conference. As a public relations professional, it was a pleasure to coordinate the article’s interviews with his prompt and thorough communication.”–Marjorie Maas, Director, Community Engagement at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

“While I was at Opera Omaha, Leo wrote several features about the work the company was doing – both mainstage and community service. He listened well and we had a couple of very enjoyable conversations. The pieces, as published, were balanced and thorough – I was very happy to have him as a colleague.”–John Wehrle, Assistant Director of Development, Western Division

“Leo Biga is one of the most talented writers in Omaha. He has covered many of our community festivals and events for “The Reader” and I have always been impressed by his professionalism as well as his ability to write thorough, fair and most of all, interesting stories. I would recommend Leo as a writer and journalist without hesitation.”–Vic Gutman, President, Vic Gutman & Associates

 

Let’s talk

I am available on a per project or by retainer basis.

Sample my work at leoadambiga.com.

Send your project specs to me at leo32158@cox.net.

Looking forward to being the lightning rod that activates, animates and illuminates a whole new level of engagement with your organization. With my help, the story of who you are and what you do will shine bright.

–Leo Adam Biga, Author-Journalist-Blogger, Omaha, Nebraska

Go Bold and Build Big Omaha – A Contrarian’s View


 

Go Bold and Build Big Omaha

A Contrarian’s View

With the College World Series upon us again, the contrarian in me comes out. First, let me say that I embrace the CWS as a cornerstone and touchstone event for the city. It is great that Omaha has hosted this NCAA championship for so long and has truly made it its own. The CWS is in many ways emblematic of Omaha itself. Stolid, stable, safe, conservative, family-friendly. Those qualities are certainly admirable in the context of a mass appeal, community-oriented event. But the CWS is also representative of Omaha settling for things that are, well, less than perhaps they could be. I refer to our fair city’s lack of truly major attractions and of monumental places and spaces to visit and gather in. Yes, I know all about the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. But for many of us a zoo is a zoo is a zoo, no matter how many new exhibits you add, and frankly a zoo is a very niche thing that doesn’t even fall into the monumental places and spaces conversation. Indeed, a zoo is the antithesis of wide open expanses by the very nature of its secured confinement fences, gates, enclosures and borders. No, what I mean is an urban park or square or plaza that is rather epic in scope and scale. Something measured in a few acres or a couple square miles. A place where many thousands can gather without being on top of each other. Something where permanent attractions and features are part of the landscape, such as wide walkways, extensive gardens, fountains, sculptures, gazebos, amphitheaters, et cetera. It might also be home to brick and mortar museums, theaters, nature conservancies and other large attractions. The actual outdoor area should be conducive to concerts, plays, arts festivals, hot air balloon launches and any number of other things.

It would be expansive enough to accommodate more than one of these activities at the same time. The closest thing we have to anything like that in Omaha is Memorial Park, which is quite nice for what it is but it is a rather small park with limited features and it certainly strains to the limit when a major concert is held there once a year. There’s the park, a small garden area, the memorial and one big event a year, and that’s it.

The city fathers have missed many opportunities to put something of this scale in place. The planners of the 1898 Trans-Miss Exposition designed something along these proportions but did not have the foresight or will or funding to build permanent structures and thus that magnificent faux city disappeared. Another missed opportunity came in the first quarter of the last century, when Omaha was being built out as a finished city, but nothing even approaching monumental arose. None of our major vintage public spaces compares in size or grandeur to those in similar sized Midwestern cities such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis or our far west neighbor Denver. Was this because of lack of vision or support? It doesn’t really matter now, except that we are left with what we are left in a rather fixed downtown and inner city landscape. But even within those restrictions more opportunities presented themselves – only Omaha failed miserably each time to realize what could have been. Whether you think it was a good idea or not, the Gene Leahy Mall presented a chance for Omaha to create a big open green space right in the heart of downtown but the leaders got it terribly wrong when they built a smallish sunken mall/park that has virtually no open space to speak of it is so densely designed and its main feature, a filthy lagoon or pond, is less than breathtaking.

 

 

Then there was Jobbers Canyon. Of course, it should have remained just it was – a huge cluster of historic multi-story warehouse buildings begging to be redeveloped for commercial and nonprofit uses. If in the end it did have to be razed, then at least ConAgra and the city should have worked out a deal to create a truly impressive public use park with grand features and spaces. That was not done. What was created is nice enough, but it pales to what could have and should have been. Ah, then there’s the rest of the riverfront development that ensued. Again, it’s a good thing that Omaha finally made it back to the river and cleaned up what had become an environmental wasteland, but leaders were far too timid and constrained with how they repurposed the area. They wasted what was a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a bold statement. What’s there is okay. but that’s the point, it’s merely okay, and mediocre and uninspiring. The biggest fault is that there is just not enough there, there. It needs much more open space and many more amenities. The pedestrian bridge is yet another underwhelming structure. None of these things standup to their counterparts in peer cities. Where is our Arch? Our Forest Park? Our Walker Art Center? Our Millennium Park? Our Lincoln Park? Our City Park? Our Liberty Memorial? Our Nelson Atkins?

Another lost opportunity saw the city never follow through and finish the grand boulevard and parks system that would have given Omaha an enduring and distinguishing urban design highlight.

While I am at it, Omaha also lacks a super wide city street to accommodate a truly massive parade with large floats and inflatables and armies of paraders or protestors, as the case may be.

A whole related conversation could be had about all the historic buildings the city has let go and that would have contributed to a much more interesting architectural aesthetic than the one we are left with today.

Perhaps Omaha is a victim of its own easy to please nature. It is ironic though that just as a new generation of creatives and dreamers have emerged in the city, many of them doing bold entrepreneurial things that enrich the culture, they and the rest of us are stuck with a blah city landscape that does not do justice to their/our aesthetics and aspirations. I wish the design of Omaha could start all over again from scratch but since that is not happening, I pray that some dreamers mesh their grand vision with big dollars to create the kind of space and place I describe. Only where would it go? North Downtown and Northeast Omaha would seem the most likely urban, inner city prospects.

Since Omaha will never have an ocean front or a mountain backdrop or dramatic skyline, much less a major professional sports team, it needs a defining, image-making place or space, not just for branding purposes outside the city, but as a point of pride celebration and destination gathering spot for us residents. Nothing we presently have even comes close to cutting it. Perhaps it’s not too late for a major redesign that would build a public park that encompasses the east Creighton Campus and its arts and sports amenities along with the Joslyn Art Museum, the Rose Theatre and the Omaha Children’s Museum, with new amenities added to the mix, in one contiguous park complex. Nah, wouldn’t work. you say. Probably not. Then again, why not, or why not something like it somewhere else? Why not a grand design element that somehow ties together the string of amenities up and down 10th Street from North Downtown to the new Blue Barn and beyond to the Lauritzen Gardens and the Zoo. Perhaps it involves somehow making 10th Street a wider, prettier thoroughfare that includes a landscaped promenade with extra wide sidewalks and plenty of perches for vendors. And a true trolley system serving that stretch and the greater downtown and midtown districts.

You can’t tell me that the resources are not available do something of scale given the level of private philanthropy here and the kinds of public monies that can be had for projects that redevelop so-called distressed or blighted areas. It’s just a matter of where the funds are directed or diverted. And what the priorities are. But we’re talking vision here, not soup and nuts. And this city is starving for a big bold vision. We just need enough deep-pocketed folks to catch the vision.

I dread having to go through this litany again in a decade or two. That’s why I say, Go Bold and Build Big Omaha. What are we afraid of?

 

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