The 84th Streetscape project reimagines a mile-long stretch of a state highway that extends through the middle of the city of La Vista, a southwest suburb of Omaha. What was once a thriving commercial corridor in the automobile age has not adapted well to changing market conditions, leaving struggling pad development and low vacancy in its wake. The City established a vision and to create a new central city core along 84th Street that speaks to a more resilient future.
The 84th Street project represents a process of liberation for the community of La Vista. Through consensus-building public engagement and outreach that identified key stakeholders and the local Youth Council as project champions, the city was empowered to relinquish control of the state highway right-of-way for a greater and more comprehensive benefit. What is now an undefined roadway landscape will be transformed into an extensive greenway. This will offer greater separation and comfort for pedestrian and provide greater mobility options within a linear park-like setting.
Purpose and Approach
Once known as the “Golden Mile”, the extent of La Vista’s 84th Street contained a wealth of thriving commercial property and served as a magnet for surrounding communities. The last few decades, however, have seen an 84th Street subject to changing market conditions that no longer support development patterns common to the middle part of the 20th Century.
Part of the state highway system, 84th Street is designed primarily for automobiles and the right-of-way is sized for expansion. The street lacks identity, pedestrian amenities, signage and wayfinding, well defined crosswalks, and a consistent landscape.
In 2010, the City of La Vista completed a visioning document to undergo a restructuring that could foster a more resilient future for the street at a critical moment in La Vista’s history. The intent of this study was to rethink the right-of-way as a crucial component of that vision, now called Corridor 84.
The visioning document established that 84th Street should represent the “…central city core, with a memorable and distinct identity, a vibrant mix of land uses, a sense of community, and a high quality of life for residents.” Through an extensive public engagement process, the design team discovered that, more specifically, 84th Street should be a platform for social interaction, promotion of health and well-being and an equitable landscape that can better meet the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.
As the prime consultant, the landscape architect led the design and facilitated public engagement program of La Vista’s 84th Street alongside a team of civil engineering, transportation planning, lighting design, and irrigation subconsultants.
The existing character along La Vista’s 84th Street varies from one end to the other with no one consistent condition that pervades. This variation is the result of dramatic changes in topography as well as adjacent land use. The design responds to these conditions by using the topography to create a greater perception of separation between pedestrians and vehicles while offering places to connect to adjacent development along the way.
With the La Vista City Centre development and Civic Center Park underway, opportunity zones have been identified here where development is anticipated along the 84th Street frontage. These opportunity zones will play a large role in the character of 84th Street in the future and can integrate the urban design to face and activate 84th Street.
Throughout the schematic design process, the design team used several methods to gather community feedback regarding the design of the streetscape plan. A special opportunity for the 84th Street design project was the willing and active involvement of the La Vista Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council. The focus of the youth council is to engage youth in civic life through participation in local government and volunteerism. Over the course of the schematic design process, the design team met with the youth council and facilitated feedback on the makeup of the street right-of-way and the prioritization of improvements. Participants in the youth council presented their conclusions at two separate public meetings.
The impact of the Youth Council on the project was infectious. Their design input and leadership brought a greater awareness of the project to the community and help garner broader support for the project.
Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability
Environmental sensitivity and sustainability are a priority for the project and are illustrated in both the planting design and the vision for water quality. The approach to the 84th Street corridor planting design is to introduce a planting scheme built for resilience. The planting for 84th is high performing in roadway environments, provides year-round interest, and celebrates the ecology of Eastern Nebraska. This is accomplished with the definition of three essential planting zones along the corridor: the parkway canopy, the salt-tolerant rain garden, and the bunchgrass pollinator.
The vision of the proposed water quality design is to accommodate historic drainage patterns while providing infrastructure that encourages stormwater cleansing toward Thompson Creek and the Papillion-Mosquito watershed. To the extent possible, stormwater runoff is captured in a network of salt-tolerant rain gardens. The rain gardens are designed to temporarily hold and soak impervious stormwater runoff. As a best management practice, these rain gardens not only help clean stormwater runoff and add to the overall diversity of plant species within the corridor, they also help to reduce the effects of downstream washout and sedimentation.
Through the robust public engagement process leading to unanimous support for the plan, the city was empowered to work with the neighboring communities to relinquish 84th Street from the state highway system. With this relinquishment, the city will be able to fully implement their ambitious vision for the project.
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):