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The Importance of Centennial Mall

November 30, 2011


Construction of the State Capitol began in 1922 and ended in 1932.  Earlier this year the Nebraska State Capitol Exterior Masonry Restoration Project was completed.  This project began in 1995 and was essential to preserve our historic Capitol.  During this time the entire exterior facade was cleaned, all four entrances were dismantled and rebuilt, and all exterior mortar joints were tuck pointed.  Expansion joints were replaced, fractured stones were repaired or replaced, and the dome tiles were re-grouted.   Most impressive was the installation of a two and a half acre copper roof.  The project was completed on schedule and within the $57.4 million budget.

Nebraskans must now turn their attention to the green space that provides the best views of the State Capitol.  Centennial Mall was created in 1967 in honor of the State’s 100th year.  Unfortunately, the mall has deteriorated greatly.  Concrete is broken and plantings are unappealing or missing.  Only one of the six original fountains remain.  Revitalization of Centennial Mall is essential to preserve and maintain this civic space where the constitutional rights of speech and peaceful assembly find their fullest protection.

In 1997, the City of Lincoln and State of Nebraska commissioned a master plan which involved closing all seven blocks of the mall.  The plan was simplified in December of 2010 to save costs.  Under the current plan, the three blocks in the middle of Centennial Mall will remain open for traffic.  You can read about and view renderings of the four themed segments in a recent article published in the Lincoln Journal Star.

The total cost to renovate Centennial Mall is estimated between $7 and $10 million.  The City of Lincoln has committed $3 Million of tax increment funding (TIF) to fund many of the essential elements of the plan.  A statewide campaign has begun to raise the additional funding needed for the renovation.

The importance of both the State Capitol and Centennial Mall are beautifully captured in a video that was recently released by Three Pillars Media to support the Project.  During the video be prepared to drift back in time to the first time you laid on the floor in the Rotunda and gazed at the intricately crafted ceiling or the first time you ventured down the North steps toward the nearest fountain.



In September of this year, Misty and I took our girls to the State Capitol for the first time.  Our three-year old, who talks a mile a minute, was overcome with silence when she stepped in the door.  She walked through with amazement; her voice never rising louder than a whisper.

You can view more pictures of our visit on my wife’s photo blog.

The immensity and solemness of the State Capitol should be contrasted with the casual, open and playful feeling of Centennial Mall.  The Centennial Mall revitalization project is important so the Mall can be enjoyed by our children and be available and accessible for education, socialization, and protest.

Follow the revitalization project on Centennial Mall’s Facebook page.



3 Responses

  1. Chante says:

    Great post about Nebraska’s capitol. After living in Madison, Wisconsin for a short stint in 2009, I was amazed to see how central and vital their capitol building was to the life of the city. Their capitol isn’t just a symbolic representation of government and pretty architecture, but a beautiful space that’s central to many city events, including a year-long Farmer’s Market and weekly summertime music events. It would be great to see Nebraska’s capitol building be the same hub of community and discourse as it seems to be in Wisconsin.

  2. Angela says:

    I think they did a great job with the work that has happened already! I hope that they do continue to move forward.

  3. Blake says:

    I cannot agree more. The video was very well done. I remember touring the building in 4th grade. The building and mall is a symbol for Nebraska’s growth and it needs to be brought back to its former glory.