Tag Archives: design

Setting the Table

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Let’s face it, there isn’t much enthusiasm for Grandma’s china these days. Fine chinaware is a forgotten treasure for many families.

Too many Generation Xers and baby boomers are content to treat their kitchen islands like buffet troughs (or they just eat out). Hardly anyone wants to whip out the fancy stuff these days. 

I’m guilty, too. I have neglected my grandmother’s rose-patterned china for 15 years. But with my children grown, I’m discovering an appreciation for old heirlooms and how they can be incorporated in fresh ways to enliven my own home.

And what better occasion to try than the holidays? In this DIY article, I demonstrate a proper holiday table setting while incorporating the china that I have inherited from the family.

But who says chinaware is only for the fanciest of occasions? For this issue’s DIY, I present a less formalistic table setting for four people.

First impressions begin with the table setting (also known as “place setting” or “laying the table”).

Making certain the eating utensils are located in just the right spot can be tricky. The precise arrangement of tableware has varied across cultures and historical periods.

As I did my research, I found that there is a whole sector devoted to churning out new ideas for table setting.

The Western craze for dressing the table seems to have taken hold in the late-18th century, when European aristocracy turned table setting into a form of artistic expression. 

As dinner party fashions trickled down to the middle class—especially in the 19th century—women began to use the table setting as a way to express their own creativity and personal taste.

Follow along to serve a dinner consisting of salad, bread, beverage, and the main course.

Have fun and don’t forget: No matter how beautiful or antique the china, a dinner party should be more about the people gathered around the table than the table setting.

Instructions

1. Dust Off the China

I was fortunate to have cherished family dishware passed down, but you can find affordable china easily. Just check garage sales, estate sales, auctions, or local thrift stores. Don’t be afraid to mix and match.

2. Plates

Place dinner plates approximately 2 inches from the table’s edge. Center them squarely in front of each chair. I also chose to incorporate gold chargers to bring out the gold in this beautiful china (also called service plates, chargers go under your dinner plates). 

 3. Bowls, Salad Plates, & Bread Plates

Soup bowls typically sit atop the dinner plate; salad plates go above the forks (on the left side of the dinner plate); and bread plates belong slightly above the salad plate, closer to the dessert fork/spoon. I modified the typical arrangement, placing the salad plate on the main dinner plate and altogether skipping the soup bowl. 

4. Utensils 

Flatware should be laid out in the order that the guest will use it. Work your way from the outside in. Forks belong on the left of the dinner plate; table knives and spoons go to the right. Knife edges should always face the dinner plate. Butter knives should be laid flat on the bread plate with the cutting edge, again, facing in the direction of the dinner plate. Dessert forks/spoons can be placed horizontally at the top of the dinner plate.

5. Drinks

Place water glasses above the dinner knife. Optional red and white wine glasses or champagne flutes should be staggered around the water glasses.

6. Napkins

There are options here. Napkins go to the left side of the plate, inside the drinking glass, or folded in the center of the plate.

7. Assigned Seating

(Optional) Write guest names on place cards. They work best placed above the dessert utensil, centered with the plate.

8. Table Decorations

Do not forget to dress the table with flowers and lots of candles. The ambiance makes a difference. At the end of the day, however, dining is about getting people together. And there is nothing cozier than entertaining at home.


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Collectible Juantiesha Christian

October 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Juantiesha Christian is a self-taught fashion designer. She does not have traditional training. She did not take any classes, and she does not hold a fashion degree. She learned her craft by feeling textiles and examining the stitching on clothes in her closet and in stores. 

The realization of her dream to become a fashion designer was based on a feeling. 

The feeling started when she was in college making costumes for her sorority pageant at Northwest Missouri State University. In 2009, she showed her first collection at Omaha Fashion Week. 

After her collection walked the runway, a woman found Christian backstage and insisted on taking home the green mohair coat Christian designed. The prospective client offered her $400 to sell it. 

Seeing people’s reactions coupled with the woman wanting to buy one of her designs gave Christian a new confidence. This was the moment she knew she was ready to go into the fashion industry. 

Local artist Nate Gurnon is a family friend of Christian’s whose artwork was incorporated into some of her designs last season. 

“I’ve know Tiesha for a long time,” he says. “I’m truly impressed with her skill, style, dedication, and willingness to push the boundaries—including my prints from Satisfaction Not Guaranteed, which are a little out of the ordinary.” 

Just as she learned to design by feeling, Christian still lets the fabric lead her when selecting materials for her collections. She doesn’t sketch. Instead, when she walks into a fabric store, she touches the different fabrics and lets the inspiration take her from there. 

Christian’s designs show the history of her growth as a designer—from her very first collection, full of muted green and white dresses; to the later vibrant, Frida Kahlo- inspired clothing, bold and floral; to her most recent work, an interpretation of what Kahlo might have worn today. It is refined, more adult than earlier pieces, while still having that colorful, statement quality that distinguishes her design aesthetic. 

Her ready-to-wear fashion label, SuShe by J. Tracey, is for women who want to stand out in a crowd. 

The brand’s name references her middle name (Tracey) and her first experience with sushi. “It was beautiful and different to me, but I assumed I was not going to like it because it was not my food ‘style,’” she says of sushi. “Once I tried it, I fell in love with it, and it’s one of my favorite foods.” 

Her mission for SuShe by J. Tracey is to create high-quality statement pieces that are affordable and that every woman will feel beautiful wearing. 

“I would love for women with different styles and body types to have at least one statement piece of mine,” Christian says. “Whether they have more of a gothic style, or more of a preppy look, or a glam look. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, even if it’s not their everyday wardrobe.” 

Christian currently resides in New York City while working full-time as a college academic adviser at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She spends the rest of her time designing new collections and creating custom orders. Her long-term goal is to design full time and eventually have her own store. 

Gurnon has no doubt she’ll be able to achieve these goals. 

“To make the move to New York from Omaha with a dream of fashion design is unheard of,” he says. “But she has a lot of support from her family and friends in Omaha. She works hard and it shows, her heart is in fashion.” 

“I want to be remembered for being a very versatile designer and knowing that fashion can be affordable and that it can be enjoyed by everybody,” Christian says. “I know some people want to be known as the all-natural designer, the cruelty-free designer, the plus- size designer, and the vintage designer. I do a little bit of everything.” 


Visit sushebyjtracey.com for more information. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Designing Spaces Where Illumination Makes the Difference

August 21, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Trevor Hollins has a passion for how others see the world around them.

Specifically, he has a passion for how thoughtful design and lighting affects the environment people experience and how it shapes their impressions, emotions, and activity. 

Hollins is the lighting design studio lead at HDR’s Omaha architecture studio. He helped pioneer lighting design at HDR by advocating for it to shift from electrical engineering to the architecture studio. The move allows the lighting design team to work directly with architects and interior designers, improving the quality of the lighting and the overall design of structures.

“Good lighting design improves the way a user visually experiences architecture,” he says. “When you sit next to the people you are working on a project with, you are able to ask questions, bounce design ideas off of each other, and create better solutions to designs.”

The lighting design team works on projects in various stages of development, and they can be a resource for projects where the team is not directly involved, Hollins says. As part of the architecture studio, the team brings awareness of the latest advances in lighting and controls technology to projects, improving architects’ ability to stay within budget and meet other project requirements.

One of Hollins’ favorite projects is the Think Whole Person Healthcare facility near Aksarben Village, which features a six-story glass atrium that creates an inviting space for patients.“It is how we perceive architecture,” Hollins says. “It’s not putting out a cool lamp.”

“Lighting within that atrium had to be visually cohesive from floor to floor in order to connect all public-facing areas of the building together,” he says.

The design of the building uses the brain’s neural pathways as inspiration, Hollins says.

“The lighting design for the building reinforced this architectural concept in the atrium by highlighting major hubs of activity with illuminated rafts that reference an activated neuron,” he says. “Visiting the doctor can be a stressful time, and being able to help to create an inviting environment that reduces stress, and improves the patient experience and the ability of doctors to provide care, is
important to me.”

Hollins was recently honored for his contributions to his industry with Lighting magazine’s “40under40” award, which is organized in association with global lighting brand Osram. He was recognized alongside professionals from “high design cities” around the world, putting Omaha among the likes of London, New York, Singapore, and Stockholm. 

Andy Yosten, vice president and director of mechanical engineering at HDR, says Hollins has evangelized for lighting design.

“He truly understands the impact that our design can have on the human experience,” Yosten says. “It’s one thing if there is just one stand-alone great individual, but his ability to pass that knowledge on and influence others and help others see the impact that that light design can have is very special with Trevor.”

Clarence Waters, an architectural engineering professor at the University of Nebraska who has grown the program to national prominence, says Hollins has been an advocate for lighting design since graduating in 2004. Hollins regularly works with students, offering them feedback on projects and presentations. He also helps students looking to transition into the workplace.

“He’s very willing to give up his time,” Waters says. “HDR hires a lot of our students as interns, and Trevor is always mentoring those student interns who are working for HDR.”

As Hollins looks to continue to elevate lighting design in his industry and community, he hopes the next generation will recognize its potential to better illuminate our world.


Visit hdrinc.com for more information.

This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

Daylight Factory

July 16, 2018 by
Photography by contributed

Daylight may be the most prominent feature of the Rail and Commerce Building at 10th and Mason streets. The banks of windows on every floor—including the lower level—were designed in the style of a “daylight factory,” a multi-story concrete frame industrial building that proliferated in the early 20th century, and that’s how they were restored. 

The multitude of windows was not happenstance. “We recognized the daylight as a resource worth harvesting,” says Jon Crane, president of Boyd Jones, the company responsible for renovating the building. “You need an environment conducive to attracting, retaining, and hiring quality people. Environment matters.” 

Crane motions through the conference room window to the Boyd Jones’ open-space office area. “This is a very collaborative space, which is an important value of our company. This space is very open, yet not disruptive.”

The open floor plan was a feature of the original building. The first floor Boyd Jones office was once meant for mail trucks—they drove right through the center of the building, from the 10th Street bridge to what was then the 11th Street bridge. Downstairs, in what is now the Commerce Village, there was a track so railcars could go through. When the building opened in 1926, it received nearly all the mail for western Iowa and Nebraska. It served in that capacity until the 1970s, when the existing post office next door replaced it.

Vacant for most of the years since then, the Rail and Commerce Building was condemned to be torn down when Crane and his team found it. “It was a cold, dilapidated shell on the inside. But the building itself, the structure was very sound,” Crane says. “We restored the façade and we completely cleaned out the inside and made it new. It was a historical preservation project, so we worked with the Nebraska Historical Society and also the National Park Service. We were able to preserve a lot of the neat historical aspects of the building.”

Building a new edifice for Boyd Jones’ headquarters was only a fleeting thought for Crane.

“It’s very important to remember where you come from—to embrace the past, but adapt it to the future,” Crane says. “Change doesn’t have to mean destruction. It can mean evolution.”

The location in Little Italy attracted Crane. He guessed it would attract others as well. The lower level of the Rail and Commerce Building houses the roughly 20,000-square-foot Commerce Village coworking space. With 16 private suites and 50 desks, it offers a variety of systems for renters: closed-door offices, set desks, floater desks, or one-day drop-ins. 

For the planning of Commerce Village, Crane brought in Matt Dougherty, who had prior experience with collaborative workspaces. His eight spaces at the Ford Building at 10th and Dodge streets “went so fast it became clear there is a real need for this type of incubator space,” says Dougherty. In his insurance business, he’s seeing a sort of “small business renaissance”—a trend of wanting to work for yourself rather than someone else.

That fit just right with Boyd Jones. “One of the values of our company is entrepreneurship,” Crane says. “We wanted an office space that would attract entrepreneurs and start-up companies—a collaborative atmosphere for collaborative people.”  

That energy drew Verdis Group, according to managing partner Craig Moody. “We’re excited for the opportunity for partnering with other organizations here,” he says.  

The daylight was another huge draw. An unexpected benefit? “The trains going by,” Moody says, grinning. “Sometimes I feel like an 11-year-old boy.” 

Verdis Group promotes sustainability, so they were pleased to find the building was equipped with solar panels. There’s also ample bike parking, as well as private showers and changing rooms so employees can freshen up after pedaling to work—or using the Rail and Commerce Building’s own fitness center. 

Conference rooms; access to a printer, mail, and package services; and a stocked kitchenette round out the amenities. Crane explains, “We really want people to be comfortable, like you’re in your [home] office.”


Visit boydjones.biz or commercevillageomaha.com for more information. 

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Virtually Necessary

July 15, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Virtual reality has worked its way into daily life at some Omaha-area architecture/engineering firms.

Also known as VR, virtual reality is a computer-generated reality viewed through a headset that situates small video screens about an inch from each eye, yielding a three-dimensional effect. 

“You’re completely blocking out the real world and making the virtual world basically what you see,” says Nathan Novak, a systems administrator with Leo A Daly Co.

Novak says his firm mainly uses VR for client presentations. Previously, presentations were accomplished using drawings.

“Everything would be flat—two-dimensional—just lines everywhere,” Novak says. That method made it difficult for clients to visualize projects.

A few years ago, Leo A Daly began using a building information modeling (BIM) program called Revit to produce three-dimensional representations of drawings.

“Instead of just lines, you place walls, and then you can place textures on the walls,” Novak says. “So now you can actually see that there’s a wall here, and the wall is going to be blue. You can see that there’s a door here, and you can see what the door material is made out of.”

BIM programs such as Revit help perform “clash detection”—ferreting out design problems prior to construction. 

“Once construction starts, any sort of change is much more expensive,” Novak says.

Creating a VR environment from a Revit model requires an additional step.

Raj Prasad, chief technology officer for HDR, says his firm uses Revit and similar tools to build 3-D models, then takes that information into products such as Unity (a gaming engine), Unreal Engine, or HTML5.

“Some combination of those is what we use to take the model that’s generated from Revit to create the VR experience,” Prasad says.

In many industries, VR is a prototyping tool, and that’s also true in architecture and engineering.

“The way we say it is, ‘We’d like to have our clients experience the end results before actually building it,” Prasad says. 

He says VR is catching on rapidly. “We are pretty actively leveraging virtual reality on our projects, in different phases.” Among those projects are bridges, transit centers, and hospitals.

Novak says Leo A Daly has used virtual reality for pumphouse designs, water pumps, and piping, among other projects.

“As long as we can build it within Revit, we can bring it over into virtual reality,” he says. “And we’re trying to expand it out even further into some of the other applications outside of Revit.”

VR also can be used in the quality assurance [QA] process.

“Did we model everything properly? Is there something that’s a mistake that we have to come back and fix?” Novak says. “The QA can be toward the end, but really we QA as we go.”

Making it easy for customers to experience VR environments is another factor that firms consider.

“You don’t have to be in an office to have a virtual reality experience. There’s ways you can experience that in anybody’s office, and that’s really the philosophy that we’ve adopted,” Prasad says. “We want to make sure that, if a client desires it and wants it, we can take it to them versus having them always having to come to us.”

One option HDR has used is to provide clients with a Google Cardboard—a simple cardboard frame with lenses that can be used with a mobile phone to experience VR.  

“I’ll call that the lower-end VR experience,” Prasad says.

Raj Prasad

Among higher-end headsets are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both of which have been used by Omaha-area firms.

Though use of VR is growing, it has limitations.

“At this point, it doesn’t replace using your computer and Revit and that sort of thing to do our modeling,” Novak says. “I believe that’s something that will be coming in a few years, but it’s not possible yet.

He says that, although available headsets are high definition, their resolution isn’t enough to replace computer monitors.

“When you look through the headset at the display, most people are going to notice that you can actually see the individual pixels. That’s called the ‘screen-door effect,’” he says. The effect makes text  very difficult to read.

“I think we’re still a few years away from being able to switch from coming in, and sitting down at a desk, and looking at monitors all day to coming in, and putting on a headset, and going into VR, and doing your work,” Novak says. 

Does Novak think the use of VR will increase over time?

“Absolutely.”

What does Prasad see as the future of VR?  “The best way to answer that, is, think Star Trek or Star Wars.”

Prasad noted that when Star Trek appeared in the mid-1960s, its technology seemed far-fetched. 

“People were like, ‘This stuff is hundreds of years down the road.’ And here we are,” he says. “This is reality.”

Within the next five to 10 years, he foresees VR being used in all project phases, and as a way to keep workers safer by accomplishing some hazardous tasks virtually, such as bridge inspection.

“If I’m looking out 10 [years] and then beyond, I would say we’re going down the path of holographs and holograms,” Prasad says. “Imagine, if you will, that you take a VR experience and send it directly to a 3-D printer.”

Examples could include a bridge pylon or a wall in a water treatment plant.

“Once the client and the chief engineer approve it, that goes to a 3-D printer. Now you’re taking modular development that—kind of like a Lego, almost—you can pull it all together. And hallelujah, you’ve got a bridge or a water-treatment plant.”

“The future, as you can imagine, it’s awesome,” Prasad says. “It’s fun, it’s wickedly cool.”


Visit hdrinc.com and leoadaly.com for more information.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Nathan Novak

Goodbye, Gene Leahy Mall

June 24, 2018 by
Illustration by provided

It’s the end of the Gene Leahy Mall as we know it. And Omaha civic leaders feel fine, apparently. Representatives of Mayor Jean Stothert’s office and the Missouri Riverfront Revitalization Project declined to comment on specific plans for the mall when contacted by Omaha Magazine and B2B. 

“The project team is in a critical review phase of the preliminary master plan, including a review of plan elements with study consultants in San Diego,” explained Stephanie Rittershaus of HDR in an email response to a media query submitted to the Missouri Riverfront Revitalization Project. “That will be followed by a full committee meeting in late April to review and approve the updated master plan. Until that process is complete, there isn’t a finalized plan to review.”

The Missouri Riverfront Revitalization Project is a public-private initiative working to revitalize the local riverfront in five zones: the Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park, and Lewis & Clark Landing in Omaha; and across the river along Council Bluffs’ riverfront (encompassing River’s Edge North and River’s Edge South). ConAgra’s campus is conspicuously absent from the declared scope of the comprehensive riverfront planning.

At public consultation meetings for the Riverfront Revitalization Project, preliminary architectural drawings showed that the Gene Leahy Mall’s man-made river would be filled with land; development zones covered the new ground from the city’s main library eastward to the Heartland of America Park. Meanwhile, the W. Dale Clark Library (a post-war brutalist building of architectural significance that has been subject to speculative redevelopment interest for years) was labeled a “development opportunity.”

The Gene Leahy Mall is only one part of the latest riverfront revitalization plans. The mall (previously known as Central Park Mall) holds special historical significance for the city’s past half-century of riverfront redevelopment plans. Originally built in the 1970s, the mall was the first phase of Omaha’s effort to reinvigorate the urban core at a time when a legacy of heavy industry and lead-polluted land separated urban downtown from the Missouri River.

Fundamentally changing the Gene Leahy Mall’s riverine landscape would overhaul the most iconic backdrop to Omaha’s urban skyline. Likewise, a drastic reshaping of the Gene Leahy Mall could mean removal of the downtown park’s public slide that is a popular draw for families.

But the park’s overhaul could also make crossing from the Old Market to the Holland Performing Arts Center easier for pedestrians while invigorating the space with increased activities that spur other developments. Proposed activity zones in place of the current man-made river and landscaping may include an outdoor amphitheater, a dog park, botanical paths, restaurants, activity areas, and other open spaces. 

The president of San Diego-based OJB Landscape Architecture, James Burnett, spoke about the proposed designs on Nov. 16, 2017, at the Riverfront Revitalization Project’s second public consultation presentation. “We think that by connecting the north and the south [lawns of the Gene Leahy Mall], we will have a lot more users in the park, a lot more eyes on the park, and a lot more events so that downtown could have a space where special events can occur,” Burnett said.

The project is co-chaired by Ken Stinson of Peter Kiewit Sons Inc. and Mogens Bay of Valmont. Other members of the advisory committee include Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh, Doug Bisson of HDR, Brook Bench with Omaha Parks, Michael Alley of Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, Gary Gates of Omaha Public Power District, Pete Tulipana of Iowa West Foundation, Mark Warner of ConAgra Brands, Rhonda Ferguson and Jack Koraleski of Union Pacific, and Jane Miller of Gallup. 

The project’s consultant team includes the firms OJB, Gensler, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Applied Ecological Services, The Concord Group, RSM Design, Lamp Rynearson, and HDR.

At the first riverfront revitalization public meeting, held Sept. 11, 2017, project co-chair Ken Stinson explained that the public-private partnership is “a very collaborative process, and part of that is reaching out to stakeholders in the community to get feedback and input.”

One person not approached was Gary Bowen, principal architect at Omaha-based BVH Architecture. 

Bowen had helped to design the Gene Leahy Mall during the 1970s with the city’s original plans for the land as civic leaders sought to revitalize Omaha’s struggling central business district.

Bowen and BVH were also involved in a proposed redesign of the Gene Leahy Mall in 2012 that would have maintained many of the area’s most beloved features (such as the man-made river and public slide) while adding an additional pedestrian bridge at 11th Street and an outdoor amphitheater, and expanding activity spaces in ways similar to those outlined in the Riverfront Revitalization Project’s second public meeting/presentation.

“The DID [Downtown Improvement District] was the nonprofit organization driving that project,” says Holly Barrett, executive director of the Downtown Improvement District, referring to BVH’s proposal for updating the Gene Leahy Mall. “It was a beautiful little plan that included updates like improved lighting and access, a brand-new playground to go along with the restored slides and improved lagoon habitat. However, it has always been part of the big picture open space opportunities connected to the riverfront. Given the scope of that concept and the powerhouses behind it, it only made sense to turn our plans over to them and allow them to run with it. The riverfront group was able to take our idea and expand it more than several times what we could have done. We are wholeheartedly supporting their efforts and have been a welcome community member at all meetings every step of the way.”

For the sake of public awareness of alternative proposals for updating the Gene Leahy Mall, B2B Omaha spoke with Bowen at BVH’s Omaha office.

Planning concept provided by Missouri Riverfront Revitalization Project

Gary Bowen on the Gene Leahy Mall

How did your work with the Gene Leahy Mall factor into early riverfront revitalization plans?

There are a few of us that go back to the very beginning of what was called the Riverfront Redevelopment Era. I think it was in the late ’60s when the City Planning Department, Alden Aust mainly, formed a group of architects to put together a preliminary masterplan, a guide, a dream for rejuvenating downtown Omaha—and it was labeled “Back to the River,” and the whole theme was linking the central business district to the riverfront. This architectural group developed a preliminary master plan, outlining a number of projects that were kind of blue-sky projects, like a stadium and so on.

BVH was involved with this group of architects. Aust took the preliminary plan and went to the federal government and got a planning grant. Then, for the next step, they hired Lawrence Halprin’s office out of San Francisco, which was one of the premier landscape architectural design firms in the country at that time; they had come into other cities, such as Seattle and San Francisco, and put together plans that helped to stimulate redevelopment in the city core. 

So Lawrence Halprin came in, and these same five firms that did the initial grant proposal—Bahr, Vermeer & Haecker (BVH) with Hartman, Morford & Bowen; Leo A. Daly; Dana Larson Roubal (DLR), Henningson, Durham & Richardson (HDR), and Kirkham Michael and Associates—worked with Halprin’s office. Each firm was assigned a specific project to work on. One of those was a park, a mall. It was called the Central Park Mall at that time. At that time, I was with a different firm—Hartman Morford Bowen—and we teamed up with BVH to work on the preliminary plans for the mall. That was our assigned project. 

We worked for two years together on that. Then in 1974, after that round of planning was done. The city said, OK, we’re now going to start building something, and the mall was the first development. By that time, I had switched over and joined BVH, and we worked on the Central Park Mall with Halprin’s office. We teamed up with them, and over the next 15 years, developed the mall and built it in five or six phases. 

Another key player with this project was a city planner, Greg Peterson, who was the project manager through the entire duration of planning and construction. Without his perseverance and continuity, the project may have never been completed in its final form. It was a very complicated process from the start. The city had to acquire all of the various parcels of property in the six square blocks and haul in dirt to fill the void before any construction could begin in 1974.

The whole idea was to create an open green space that was a link between the CBD and the river. The theme of the park used water as a symbolic river that,  because it flowed from west to east, suggested movement to the riverfront.

At that time, Jobbers Canyon was still intact, and we proposed retaining two of the buildings and located them within the mall—the Burlington Building and the former McKesson-Robbins Building. Under great duress, we persevered and kept those buildings in the plan to link the urban fabric of the city to the park. But it was a difficult task because the city leadership at that time didn’t think old buildings were worth saving and basically told us not to show them in the plans or else we would be fired.

You’ve watched this riverfront issue come up over and over again as a longtime resident of Omaha. What’s your take on the recurring discussion of riverfront planning?

To back up a bit, in the late ’60s early ’70s, downtown Omaha was on the skids. When Brandeis closed downtown, that’s when everything hit bottom. So, in retrospect, we can see the whole idea of regenerating the CBD has worked.

The mall and the W. Dale Clark Library were the first projects that went into place. The idea was that if the city made a public commitment, that would stimulate private development. The whole idea worked wonderfully. If you look at where we are now, compared with where we were 50 years ago, it’s pretty amazing. 

But one of the biggest negatives of the city’s riverfront revitalization push was the loss of Jobbers Canyon. That was eight square blocks of warehouses. Had they escaped demolition, today they would have been renovated into condominiums and apartments, and the Old Market would have extended all the way to Eighth Street. Right now we are out of warehouses. There aren’t many left to renovate, and this whole movement to save old buildings and renovate them into businesses and condominiums has caught on fire. 

What’s happening now is infill projects, the gaps are being filled in—like this building at Ninth and Jones streets where BVH has its offices in Omaha. This was on the side of the old Butternut Building that burned down. If you look around, there is nice mix of new and old. 

The other part of Omaha’s historic riverfront redevelopment plans that didn’t work out so well is the area next to the river. There was a restaurant, Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, and later the Storz Trophy Room. But access was a problem. That restaurant location, occupied by different businesses, was one attempt to use an attraction to get people right down on the river that didn’t work out.

Of course, there have been a lot of successes with the riverfront redevelopment projects over the years. The CenturyLink Center has become a major anchor in close proximity to the riverfront, drawing people from all over.

Another major development that has proved beneficial is the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which of course provides a pedestrian link across the river. There wasn’t any access before that. That bridge has stimulated activity from east to west, and BVH came up with the original design for the bridge. We worked with an engineering firm that prepared a cost estimate that was over the budget, and after working for some time to get the estimate within budget, it didn’t work, so the city hired another firm to implement our design and do the final engineering drawings. But the idea, concept, and design are virtually identical to what we came up with originally.

Then, when it comes to generating activity on the riverfront, the Council Bluffs side has made wonderful progress. There’s Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, and the casinos have worked wonders. 

Everything has been heading in the right direction when you compare Omaha and the riverfront to what it was in the early days of my involvement. It’s been a miraculous turnaround. But there is still a way to go, in my opinion.

How were you involved in subsequent discussions to update or renovate the Gene Leahy Mall?

I recall that there have been two or three redevelopment plans for the mall, and we did one of them. There was an East Coast firm, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, that did one in 2006. Omaha By Design hired this firm to produce the plan. The whole idea was to activate the mall because, of course, downtown has changed in the last 50 years from virtually no one living downtown to more than 10,000 people living downtown today. 

The city was looking to activate the mall and kind of tweak it. Then, we were hired in 2012 to take a look at the mall after the update plan was not implemented. We looked at it and proposed an amphitheater, a plaza on the west end, an observation tower, a new pedestrian bridge crossing the mall at 11th Street with the idea to create another north-south bridge crossing the water to the Holland Center, and expanding the playground with the slide remaining in place.

Omaha’s Downtown Improvement District was heavily involved in that plan, partnering with the city, and the intent was to raise $20 million from sponsors to do this major overhaul of the mall. There was a personnel change, and then nothing ever happened. I don’t think there was any objection to our proposal, but nobody picked it up and ran with it. 

Were you or any BVH parters involved with the latest riverfront redevelopment planning meetings?

No invitation was offered.

I think one of our staff went to those meetings, but I suppose I’ve somewhat distanced myself because of such a close earlier personal involvement—and the fact that no one has reached out to the local architects who worked on the mall in the past.

I think there were open-ended invitations, that everybody was welcome. That’s good. It’s good to get input. But no one has ever approached us concerning the current mall redevelopment proposals. Nobody has come in to talk us about it like Omaha Magazine or B2B has.

It’s good that there is public and private interest in updating the Gene Leahy Mall. There is still work to be done; it’s never finished. But the current planners need to be aware of the reasoning behind what was done 40-50 years ago, because I think some of that is still valid. 

Having worked in the original conceptual development of the Gene Leahy Mall, do you feel attachment to its place in downtown Omaha’s environment?

Oh, being part of the creation of the mall was one of my career highlights. Right up there near the top. To help create a project that has had such a big impact and helped turn downtown Omaha around, I take pride in that. 

Cities are always evolving and changing, responding to different criteria and influences. I still think the mall is a valid part of downtown Omaha in its present location. Does it need to be revised and updated? Yes, but not with major surgical changes. Downtown Omaha still needs this linkage between the CBD and the river, and it still needs an open green space with activities. 

What do you think of flattening and paving the Gene Leahy Mall?

I think that would be a major mistake. Parts of it could be paved, and that was part of our proposal that we did with the city and the Downtown Improvement District. In fact, in the first block, we proposed a level-paved plaza with fountains, gazebos, and a restroom pavilion. Part of that plan was to level the mound on the north side of the mall to create a large lawn where one could kick soccer balls around and play tag football. 

I think one of the objections early on in the development of the mall was that it was lowered. That was intentional to create a separation of people from the busy traffic noise on both sides. There were some low walls around the mall, and some of those have been taken out to offer more view and to enhance security. 

But I don’t think filling it in is a good idea. Water is a magical attraction, especially in urban areas. It’s refreshing, and I think that aspect of the mall is important to keep. 

Part of the issue could be maintenance, realizing that the park is almost half a mile long. Six square blocks of lawn and trees take a lot of money for the city to maintain. I think that has been a challenge, so paving it and flattening it out could save a lot of maintenance money. But you get what you pay for.

Should the mall be updated? Yes. That’s what we were trying to do, too. But to completely wipe it off the map and start over? I would have hoped Omaha had learned its lesson with Jobbers Canyon.

How was the Gene Leahy Mall situated next to Jobber’s Canyon when you were originally involved in developing the project?

Jobbers Canyon was between Eighth and 10th streets, including the McKesson-Robbins Building and its twin to the north. It went all the way to Douglas Street on the north side of the mall, all the way south to Jackson Street between Eighth and 10th streets.

ConAgra came much later in 1986. The first phase of the Gene Leahy Mall was built in 1976, and it was about 10 years in the making before the issue of demolishing Jobbers Canyon came up. In the beginning, part of Jobbers Canyon was proposed to extend into the riverfront park. We were not involved with the Heartland of America Park. But that project completed the link from the CBD to the river.

When we first became involved with the Central Park Mall, that was before Jobbers Canyon or the Old Market had been declared a historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.

In fact, we were actually threatened with losing our commission if we didn’t remove the old brick buildings from our conceptual plans. City leadership did not want to see them on the plan. “Don’t show them,” they said, “Why would you want to keep those?”

Of course, when ConAgra was looking for a site, the city was pretty much willing to put anything on the chopping block in order to keep them. There were several alternative locations offered, and there was even an offer to buy them an alternative site. 

During those early riverfront planning days, the powers that be—the business establishment—were quoted in the newspapers saying things like, “Ugly old brick buildings? What do we want to keep those for?” Keeping Omaha’s old brick warehouses was seen as anti-progress.

All the costs to tear the buildings down and the wasted energy, it was just a disaster. Sure, the fact that the corporation was headquartered here in Omaha, and there was lots of new construction, that was all good. But at the same time, it was the wrong location. If we could have managed to keep Jobbers Canyon and ConAgra, that would have been a win-win situation. Now, after everything is said and done, ConAgra’s headquarters have relocated to Chicago after all—and, ironically, they moved into a renovated historic brick building.

Are there things you would like to see different in the Gene Leahy Mall through to the riverfront?

On either side of the mall, there are some gaps that need to be filled in. The Gene Leahy Mall is really like a miniature version of Central Park in New York City, and it would be nice if the areas on both sides of the mall were more urbanized with more concentrations of buildings, big buildings. I think the contrast between the open green space and the architecture on either side would be better. It seems like there are some teeth missing on both sides that need to be filled in. If you look at Central Park or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco—another example of an urban linear park that is very dense and built up on either side—these models were inspirational, something that we had always envisioned and would be beneficial for Omaha. 

If you take the area east of 14th Street, which is the beginning of the mall, that is where infill needs to happen. There have been some notable new developments in this regard, like the Landmark Building and the Holland Center, that needed to go in next to the mall. 

The mall has been kind of an anchor for this area of east downtown, but it does need to be updated and activated because it has satisfied the purpose for which it was intended. Originally, it was meant to be a catalyst for redevelopment downtown and a symbolic extension of the CBD east to the river. It did that. But in the early days of the park’s development, very few people lived and worked downtown. Now the equation has flipped. Lots of people want to live downtown, and there has to be an open green space with activities in it, like an amphitheater, a bigger playground, play space, soccer fields, and things like that. I would hope that one day something like that happens. 

Can you explain some of the proposed features in BVH’s unrealized proposal for the Gene Leahy Mall?

Well, some of our original proposals for the mall in 1972-73 featured shops, restaurants, and development along the fringe of the park, but were never realized.

The original BVH-HMB concept envisioned a park-like setting with many activities and attractions. This original concept established the basic idea of a linear park with its center below street level, with the east-to-west waterway representing a symbolic “return to the river.” The original conceptual plans were the basis for the more detailed master plan that BVH produced in concert with Halprin’s firm, which is what we have today with the lowered waterway, and the retention of the two historic buildings. 

In our more recent revisiting of the mall for the Downtown Improvement District, we proposed a new pedestrian bridge over 11th Street in addition to the preexisting pedestrian bridge. Our proposed bridge in the middle had a widened area where people could stop and look down. The whole idea for this new bridge, as with the other bridges, is that they have a shallow profile so one can see past it into the mall from one end of the park to the other.

Chroma design was the Denver-based landscape architect that we worked with to develop the 2012 plans. Some of the other elements that we proposed include: a ranger station; we would have kept the slide; we would’ve put some new structures in; a water element would’ve come through from the south side near the play area; there would’ve been new play structures for kids to get in and climb around; we proposed adding some more pathways and the top of the hill would be flattened and used for lawn events; and the arch was retained.

What did the arch belong to?

The arch was part of a building torn down on the south side of the mall, the former Corey McKenzie Building, which was a big stone structure about a half-block long where the Landmark Building and its parking garage are now located.

Before the Corey McKenzie Building was demolished, I convinced the city to have the arches carefully disassembled, the individual stones numbered, and then reassembled back-to-back in the Central Park Mall. The location on the north end of 11th Street represents a gateway from the Old Market to the park.

How did your involvement with Downtown Improvement District compare to the sort of private investment involved with the current riverfront revitalization plan?

There are politics in any kind of major civic projects, and generally, if the project is privately funded, there is protocol that donors like to go to certain firms or have certain stipulations attached to their donations.

Working with Downtown Improvement District was an entirely different scenario.

But there are private philanthropic entities in Omaha that can virtually raise any money they want, and $20 million wouldn’t have been any problem to them. 

I know that Downtown Improvement District did start talking to major players downtown. They showed the plans and said, “This is what we’re thinking. We’re not asking for money yet, but we want to get you acclimated and accustomed to what is being planned, and we’ll be around in a few years to ask for your help financially.” I attended a couple of those meetings.

Did private investment factor into the initial development of the Gene Leahy Mall in the ’70s?

I think it was all funded by federal grants obtained by Alden Aust, the director of city planning, through U.S. Sen. Carl Curtis. This was all federal money, Community Development Block Grant money, urban open space grants, and there were some of the business leaders involved in the early parts of the planning. There were public workshops, a task force that kind of guided the process, and the task force included Omaha residents ranging from business leaders all the way down the social structure to housewives and postmen. 

What do you think of the prospect of redeveloping the W. Dale Clark Library?

There has been talk of tearing it down or renovating it, and I don’t know where that stands. The library was built in the early ’70s, designed by a firm out of St. Louis—Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum. Over the years, it hasn’t maintained a lot of popularity because of its brutalist design 

I don’t think it’s a very open or friendly looking building, and it really occupies a key spot in downtown because it anchors the west end of the mall. It’s one of the stepping stones between the CBD and the mall and the river, a progression of things. It’s got a sunken moat around it, and in today’s world, it doesn’t quite fit into the Old Market architectural vernacular—which is really brick—but that brutalistic style was a popular thing in the ’60s and ’70s.

Would you like to share any additional thoughts on the subject of Omaha’s riverfront revitalization efforts?

I think the Old Market is sometimes taken for granted as an anchor for downtown Omaha and the riverfront. The fact that the Old Market is here, and it has been here since the very beginning—despite all the pressures to tear down buildings—is remarkable.

It was this jewel in a wasteland of vacant and derelict buildings in the ’60s that the Old Market started with the Mercer family buying up many of these buildings and helping to put in place amenities like the French Cafe, M’s Pub, and other businesses. 

Over the years, it has persevered through all the ups and downs and is one of the state’s most-visited tourist attractions. It has been the greatest thing to happen to downtown Omaha, in my opinion, in the last 50 years. It’s still here, and it is better than ever.

The ironic thing is that it was never really developed. It was organic. It started growing, and things kind of fell into place. It has never been grabbed onto by a developer and ruined, like some other areas in the country that have flashy buildings and signage. It is still kind of in that organic mode. It was never really planned. Whatever else happened, the Old Market was always there. It was always going to be there, and now everything has kind of grown up around it.


Visit riverfrontrevitalization.com for more information about the Missouri Riverfront Revitalization Project. Visit bvh.com to learn more about the local architectural firm involved with the Gene Leahy Mall’s initial conceptualization and construction.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Update: After this magazine went to press, the Riverfront Revitalization Project announced that the master plan would be revealed during a community meeting on June 12 (5-7 p.m. at Gallup’s headquarters, 1001 Gallup Drive). The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. Free parking will be available in the Gallup parking lot.

Early conceptual drawing by BVH

Design is a Team Effort

May 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

How many magazines (outside of this one) do you read? I walk into the bookstore about once a month and look at the magazine racks. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the magazine section, and while certain magazines routinely grab my attention, new ones catch me each month by their
cover designs. 

It is thanks to graphic artists that readers stop in their tracks and pick up a magazine, but even a simplistic-looking cover is far from that—in some cases, the simpler the cover, the harder to design.

The cover you are viewing was created by senior graphic designer Derek Joy. He and I work closely on B2B—and I enjoy looking at how he inserts his colorful personality into the magazine.

His work is often subtle. He came up with a great design element a couple of months ago—a diamond-shaped graphic that is placed near the page numbers and explains the department in a creative way, such as the crescent moon in the diamond on “After Hours.” And take another look at last year’s Best of B2B results in the March/April/May 2017 edition (visit readonlinenow.com to see the issue). That launching rocket ship you find throughout the list was due to Derek’s creativity.

I also work with several other incredible artists. Creative director Matt Wieczorek’s appreciation of clean styles inspired the geometric, art-deco look for the annual Faces of Omaha, and graphic designer Mady Besch brought an element of surprise to the latest Family Guide with a cover made from felt, photographed by Bill Sitzmann. And Katiuska Nuñez produces stunning custom ads for
our advertisers.

I hope you enjoy reading about the design-inspired articles in this issue. 


This letter was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Daisy Hutzell-Rodman is the managing editor of B2B, a publication of Omaha Magazine LTD. She can be reached at daisy@omahamagazine.com.

Elman Print

Photography by Jeremy Wieczorek

This sponsored content was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/bb0718_flipbook/28

Mark Elman, president of Elman Print, is happy to reveal the secret of Elman Print’s impressive success. “It has to be our staff,” he says, explaining that the reason they’ve enjoyed such great success for more than three decades in Omaha is largely due to an experienced, dedicated staff.

“They’re incredible people,” he says. Elman further explains that it’s the mix of the veteran employees with the younger staff that creates success. “It’s a good blend. The younger staff respects the experienced staff and is willing to learn, while the younger staff brings in the knowledge of new technology to help the veteran staff grow.”

Clients who turn to Elman Print benefit from the impressive roster of professionals on staff who utilize both experience and the latest technology to get the job done. In Elman’s eyes, every project is important­—large and small projects receive the same amount of attention to ensure consistent success. 

Elman’s graphic artists and prepress staff are in charge of reviewing the files to guarantee high resolution reproduction. “We make sure the hard work of graphic designers is brought to life accurately, by verifying bleeds, folds, and resolution, just to name a few.” says Elman. “We give our customers a sense of ease when we take over a project—it’s in capable hands”.  

The system works well for a busy company that is accustomed to helping customers with their printing needs. “Using the latest software and hardware, our prepress staff puts the final touches on projects before they hit the production floor,” says Elman.

6210 S. 118th St.
Omaha, NE 68137
402.346.0888
elmanprint.com

Commercial Flooring Systems Inc.

May 15, 2018 by
Photography by Jeremy Wiecorek

This sponsored content was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/bb0718_flipbook/28

Project manager James Vanhauer officially joined the Commercial Flooring Systems Inc. team two years ago, yet it was not a difficult transition for him, considering that his father, Jim, founded the company 27 years ago. 

He’s pleased to be a part of this comprehensive team. “We’re a full-service flooring contractor offering a unique blend of services to our customers,” he says. 

Vanhauer knows the importance of having solid working relationships with the best interior designers within the Omaha community. They use that relationship to assist customers in selecting flooring products based on the right look and the optimum function, design, and performance. Customers are not on their own when it comes to choosing flooring because the CFS flooring experts help in every step of the process.

The Specialty Maintenance Division of CFS further sets the company apart for their ability to help customers in properly maintaining their flooring while strictly adhering to the unique maintenance guidelines set by each manufacturer’s warranty. “Usually flooring contractors have limited offerings,” says Vanhauer, “but the combination of services we offer truly sets CFS apart.”

11008 John Galt Blvd.
402.592.4383
cfsomaha.com

Daake

Photography by Jeremy Wieczorek

This sponsored content was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/bb0718_flipbook/28

Greg Daake launched a successful career as a graphic designer and an art director right out of college, but he was disappointed with the disconnect he found between creative teams and clients.  

“I call it ‘mushroom management’; [the creative team is] kept in the dark and fed fertilizer,” he says. “I needed to get close to the problem…I want to be with the people—it’s not about computers and fonts and colors, it’s about human beings—and if there’s any distance between [you and] that, your work suffers.”

In 2001, he founded his namesake company out of a spare bedroom. Seventeen years later, DAAKE the company has grown to a team of 10, providing branding and creative services to clients that include Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, First National Bank, Iowa Western, OrthoNebraska, Kidwell, Lincoln Financial Group, DMSI and Timpte.

“We like that diversity. It’s not about industry for us, it’s about human beings,” says Daake, who serves as creative director and principal. “It’s still problem-solving, it’s still creating compelling thoughts, images, and expressions. And that translates across virtually any industry.” 

The company’s niche is branding, which Daake likens to metamorphosis.

“It’s really the full spectrum of brand design and brand thinking but the common element is that there’s some sort of pivotal moment, complex challenge, some sort of transformation,” he explains. “We’re on a mission here to help brands transform themselves.”

Director of Project Management Susan Linde says the team at DAAKE genuinely cares about not just the success of the clients, but about the people within those organizations. 

“We will ask them tough questions to get to the root of their problem, and then we will take it a step further to ask ‘What if?’ to develop new solutions that bring results,” she says. “Throughout the relationship, we will take chances and handle each and every detail, so they don’t have to.”

Senior Design Director Steven Valish agrees that what distinguishes DAAKE is deep connections to clients.

“There are a lot of great agencies in Omaha and throughout the Midwest that execute great creative. I feel strongly that DAAKE is part of that class, but creative aside, we care,” he says. “We care about our clients as best friends—think of the degree of effort and devotion you dedicate to your closest relationships.”

DAAKE’s team must be able to integrate a variety of channels, from print to broadcast social media, to meet the needs of clients around the country. But it all goes back to helping brands transition to the “what could be.” 

“In 17 years of this, branding is just our sweet spot, it’s our value intersection. We get to do what’s very meaningful and fulfilling to us, and when the client goes, ‘We couldn’t have done it without you’…After months of listening and talking and focus groups, it’s great to bring back this distillation of who they already are,” Daake says. “It’s around those rebranding moments: guiding them to the right idea, clarifying what they’re really saying and creating these powerful, exciting moments for their brand.” 

17002 Marcy St., Suite No. 10
Omaha, NE 68118
402.933.2959
daake.com