Once renovated, Nebraska Centennial Mall likely will include additional features honoring the 20 to 24 tribes who had influence on the state.
A circle of twinkling lights is planned, with each of the solar LED lights representing a single tribe that had influence in Nebraska.
The circle of lights, part of proposed mall renovations between P and Q streets, will be surrounded by native grass and plantings, many of which were used by Native people, Karen Nalow, with the mall design team from Clark Enersen Partners, told the Nebraska Capitol Environs Commission on Friday.
The commission approved the changes in the mall design during a meeting Friday. The additional elements still are dependent on private donations.
The goal was to represent the first people of the Plains in an elegant and respectful way, Nalow said.
The circle of lights replaces a previous concept of a light fountain pointing directly into the sky, similar to one at Mystic Lake Casino in Minnesota. The bright lights, directed upward, don't meet city design standards, said Jennifer Klein, with Clark Enersen Partners, an architectural firm working on mall design.
And design team members were concerned about the size of the light fixtures and potential vandalism of the features, Klein said.
The design team has hired Tammy Eagle Bull, an architect and president of Encompass Architects P.C. in Lincoln, to help research and provide advice on the design of the Native recognition, said Lynn Johnson, Parks and Recreation Department director.
Eagle Bull is identifying the tribes that had connections to the area that became Nebraska.
She also is researching images, concepts and traditions that are common among the tribes of the Great Plains, including the circle.
Though there is some variation in its meaning among tribes, the circle is related to the circle of life and circle of seasons, Johnson said.
The design team also is working with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
Another circle, this one of grass and serving as a small amphitheater, will be developed in the northern most block of the mall, from Q to R streets, Nalow said.
The area will slope upward to the north from the grass circle, providing a place for people to sit during small events, design team members told the commission.
The design team also is considering creating a light feature with programmable overhead lights on two tall poles that would shine down on the circle and could be programed to provide different scenes and images on the ground.
Four limestone benches in the mall between L and M streets will be dedicated to the four tribes with current ties to Nebraska -- the Omaha, Santee Sioux, Winnebago and Ponca.
Work on renovating the mall is expected to begin early next year and be finished in 2015, said J.J. Yost, with the city's Parks and Recreation Department.