What do we want our community to look like in the next 5, 10, 20 or 50 years? How can we get there? Who can help us achieve those goals? More importantly, how were we going to get there?
My board of directors and I asked ourselves the same question this summer. “What is next for community and economic development in Valley County?” we asked ourselves. With the recent launch of our new housing development and the completion of various other projects in Valley County, we wanted to take a step back and ask ourselves those questions above.
Enter on stage right, lady luck. Or, in the form of a planning and design effort in partnership with UNL’s College of Architecture. Kim Wilson, a landscape architect and program director for Landscape Architecture and Community & Regional Planning had an answer. “Let’s work together with some great student minds to develop a framework plan that gives local leadership the visualization, research and structure to move forward with a new vision for the future” said Kim.
My board and I agreed and we proceeded with gusto.
Working with over 50 local representatives, the students, my board, my staff and I began to formulate a plan based off of input from our community listening session in early September. The feedback given, along with analytical data, demographics and an analysis of the built environment gave the Architecture students the necessary information to develop a plan for action.
As of yesterday, the first draft of those plans were presented. The students advocated a framework plan that focused on five project opportunities:
1.) Downtown Revitalization Phase II (creative shared spaces, commercial property acquisition/rehabilitation and downtown housing)
2.) Anderson Island Development with connectivity to the rest of the community
3.) North Loup Riverfront development
4.) Green seams Ord linear park system (connecting our local parks, including Anderson Island, schools and shared public spaces with each other)
5.) Countywide housing and/or tourism development
Those five recommendations represent only the first draft; we plan to narrow our focus a bit and move forward with a final implementation plan that will be presented in December to the public at large. I’m not sure where we’ll end up, but I do know that each of those projects make for a better community and county.
What this plan does gives us are a few ideas to argue about, think about and put forth as continued community investment projects. For me, embracing Anderson Island as an in-town asset (and an underutilized one at that) and going back to downtown redevelopment is big. We are putting forth two really exciting development projects that have the potential to have a lasting impact on our downtown business community. Our downtown business community is at the heart of our business vitality across the county.
We posted photos of yesterday’s event online here for our community members to see where things are going, and also of the quality of the work that the students presented.
So, enjoy the photos of yesterday’s event and let us know what you think: are these worthy ideas or are we crazy? What do you think?