Practice :: Realigning a Region

Realigning a Region

Exploring inherent potential in Omaha’s Belt Line.

The Belt Line connected early Omaha’s centers of industry. Its removal thirty years ago signified a turn away from the city and contributed to crisis in many of the neighborhoods surrounding it. But in its dereliction lies extraordinary promise – to reconnect some of the region’s most significant education and health care institutions and employment centers, to revitalize neighborhoods, and to give the city another path on which to align itself.

For the month of June, a team of planners and designers worked to develop a vision for the Belt Line, guided each week by an overarching directive. The team invited the public to join in the process by attending weekly Open Studios. The month culminated in an open presentation, discussion, and reception.

Open Studio 1 | Conditions (Friday, June 7, 1pm on)
To see, we must first look.
The open studio series began with a survey of the Belt Line from past and present. The design team compiled an extensive photocatalogue of the Belt Line, which was displayed alongside mappings of historical, socioeconomic, and environmental context. A free walking guide of the Belt Line was developed and available to take, encouraging everyone to experience the corridor.


Open Studio 2 | Possibilities (Thursday, June 13, 1pm on)
Dwell in possibility.
The scope of the second open studio expanded to embrace the multitude of possibilities for productive reuse of the Belt Line. The design team developed and imaged several alternative visions for the corridor framed around questions about public space, mobility, urban regeneration, and landscape ecology.

Open Studio 3 | Strategies (Friday, June 21, 1pm on)
The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.
The third open studio explored strategies for achieving the visions for the Belt Line laid out in the previous open studio. We engaged with such vital matters as community ownership, institutional partnerships and structures, and financing, through which we were able to test what is and what is not desirable for our community.

Project Exhibition (Thursday, June 27, 6pm on)
Realigning a Region: Exploring Inherent Potential on Omaha’s Belt Line.
The project exhibition reviewed the work of the month and asks broader questions about the necessity, desirability, and feasibility of reclaiming the Belt Line for public use. We emerged from the exhibition with an understanding of the possibilities and what it will take to achieve them.

Facilitation Team

Brad Howe, 2013 Design Fellow; Geoff DeOld, Architect and Planner; Stephen Osberg, Urban Planner; Anne Trumble, Landscape and Urban Designer; Sloan Dawson, Transportation Planner; Emily Andersen, Architect and Planner. All images and graphics created by the team. Historic Belt Line drawings and information provided by Dick and Barrett Ryker.