Enthusiasm and optimism are infectious. It's hard not to feel both when you hear about the progressing plans for renovating Centennial Mall from Lynn Johnson, director of Lincoln Parks and Recreation, and Susan Larson Rodenburg, who's organizing the campaign.
After years of neglect and decay, the seven-block stretch between the Capital and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, subject to the best intentions of volunteers and donors statewide, could become one of America's premier urban malls, according to Rodenburg.
The latest of plans is to install a pathway of Nebraska names, famous quotes and facts etched in granite and bronze on the edge of the walkway in Nebraska Centennial Mall.
Called Centennial Mall forever, it was, after all, conceived for the Nebraska Centennial in 1967.
That stretch of tiles in tribute to Nebraska history, which would be open to donors willing to contribute, is in addition to other plans you can look at in detail at http://www.necentennialmall.org/
New paving, benches, planters, trees, fountains and landscaping make the master plan look very attractive, even if the mall looks run-down now.
Part of the renewed focus on this project came from Mayor Chris Beutler and from the refreshed organization of volunteers willing to give time and money to making this most prominent part of the Capital City's downtown attractive -- not just to locals, but to visitors from Nebraska and elsewhere.
About two-thirds of the more than $9 million needed to get this job done is raised or pledged. At least one big donor has come forward.
The volunteers are in a publicly silent part of fundraising, as they solicit lead donors for the biggest share of the financial needs.
They intend to break out more publicly and also spread the campaign to Omaha and Greater Nebraska, and soon.
"We're trying to develop opportunities for people all across the state to be involved," Rodenburg said.
Having what amounts to a memorial to the durability of Nebraska and its citizens in the middle of Lincoln doesn't mean it's just "a Lincoln project," any more than the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is just a university for Lincoln.
And yet, the state of Nebraska hasn't committed a cent to this restoration of a mall that leads from the great symbolism of the Capitol, past buildings that house state employees to the Nebraska Historical Society building and the UNL campus.
It's a big project.
"Size alone makes it a bigger challenge than anything we've ever taken on in the city, except for the arena, from a purely parks standpoint," Rodenburg said.
We are delighted at the progress the volunteers and the city have achieved for this project. It deserves more attention and support from those who work in the Capitol.