The Public Space
June 12, 2013
by Ken Mayer
As classes at UNO wind down and I’m left to my own devices, I tend to start wandering around, seeing what I can see. Here are a few projects in the public space that I think are interesting and/or particularly well executed.
Realigning a Region
From Emerging Terrain, the people who brought us the art on the I-80 grain elevators and the Trugs, comes a series of open studios to explore uses of the old Missouri Pacific Beltline. Public rail transportation on the Beltline was discontinued in 1960, having operated as a link between Sarpy County and Omaha since 1885.
The public is invited to participate in a series of events exploring the possibilities and strategies for reuse of this strip of land. The project’s genesis is quite simply the startling observation that this potential exists. Probably the only contiguous use right now is the Field Club Trail.
In addition, Emerging Terrain has found a way to easily visualize the area and nearby inhabitants through an installation in their offices at 1717 Vinton. The presentation is clear and to the point. Well worth a visit, and I’m sure they would appreciate your input during one of the open studio sessions taking place this month. See their website at www.emergingterrain.org for details.
The Old Station
The news that a local television operation intends to purchase and set up shop in the Burlington Station is indeed welcome and long overdue. The terminal opened July 4, 1898, and welcomed visitors to the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition.
As originally constructed, it was one of Omaha architect Thomas R. Kimball’s masterworks. Kimball’s classic Hellenic temple form used 28 pink Colorado granite Doric style columns. In 1930, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White of Chicago remodeled the building and the columns were moved to the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln.
Looking at this old picture of the station, I got to thinking. Those columns have been down in Lincoln for over 80 years now, maybe it’s time they got recalled and used to help restore the terminal to the way one of our city’s most accomplished native sons intended it.
It’s not a big public space issue or all that important in the scheme of things, but the recent appearance of parking meters around the Civic Center that take credit cards sure is a convenience. Since we have all become accustomed to paying for lots of small items from coffee to photocopies, it just makes sense to also use a card to plug the meter. This makes me hopeful that I can stop carrying that roll of quarters in my car.
I pulled into a card-taking metered space about 7:45 in the morning for an 8 o’clock meeting. Usually that means paying for a couple of hours since I would be unavailable to feed the meter when enforcement starts at 8:30. To my surprise, the meter took my card but didn’t start the charges right away. The time between when I left the car and when enforcement began was free. That meant it was cheaper than in the past, reducing my cost from a buck and a half or two bucks to a single.
That saved me enough to give that nice fella on the corner a couple of quarters when he told me he had a big deal cookin’ in Dallas and was fifty cents short on the plane fare.
The Public Space
Ken Mayer is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant and adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has served on the boards of The Nebraska Choral Arts Society, Downtown Omaha Inc. and Landmark’s Inc. Mr. Mayer has been a consultant and volunteer for Omaha by Design since 2002.