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Centennial Mall will be transformed from its cracked and fading condition to seven blocks of inviting green space with a tree-lined walkway, stone-veneered seating walls and shooting water displays.

The city has raised about $3 million of the $9 million target, and hopes to begin work on the renovation in spring or summer 2012, members of the Capitol Environs Commission learned Thursday.

The commission, which oversees preservation and enhancement of the area around the Capitol, approved the Centennial Mall master plan concepts at the Thursday meeting. The mall links the Capitol with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to the north.

"Centennial Mall will be finished: This is music to the commission's ears," said Jeff Searcy, commission chairman.

The planning is still in the earlier stages.

For example, designers know evergreen trees will line the walkway in the first block north of the Capitol, to link with the concolor firs along the Capitol steps. But they have not decided what trees will be planted in the other blocks, said Dennis Scheer, landscape architect with Clark Enersen Partners.

The following are some of the ideas presented at the commission meeting for the mall:

Water displays

There will be no fountains with basins, but there will be jets that shoot water up or out in three of the blocks. Some will be computer driven, dancing with color. Others will be less sophisticated.

A major fountain in the mall area adjacent to the Children's Museum will dance, said Scheer. "It's going to jump and do all sorts of things."

Traffic pattern

The downtown traffic pattern will not change. Streets that are closed by the mall will remain closed.

The area in which streets intersect with the mall will be repaved with color.

State Office Building

The area in front of the State Office Building will be raised, so there will be no steps from it into the building itself.

Pedestrian walkway

A walkway, lined by trees, will form a straight line from the Capitol steps to the UNL campus. A double row of trees along part of the walk "will make this a much more pleasant pedestrian environment," said Bob Ripley, Capitol administrator.

Themes

Planners have designated specific themes for each block:

* K to L: Nebraska's government, leaders, and inhabitants

* L to M: Stewardship of resources

* M to P: Nebraska community

* P to Q: Cultivates imagination/spirit of Nebraska

* Q to R: Cultivates ideas/educates

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"If you are a word person this is the poetry of the mall. If you are a music person, this is the score," said Scheer.

Fundraisers will encourage donors to pay for items in specific theme areas, said Tom Laging, UNL professor of architecture.

"I prefer that to the Pepsi-Cola fountain," he said.

Timeline

Public fundraising efforts will begin in March, with construction expected to start in spring/summer 2012.

The goal is to have the mall completed by spring or summer 2014.

Scheer said they want to have the mall available for several years before Nebraska's 150th birthday, in 2017, so it can become the major celebration place for the Sesquicentennial.

Cost

The $9 million estimated cost includes $7.5 million for renovation and $1.5 million for an endowment fund to be used for future maintenance, said Lynn Johnson, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

The $3 million already committed comes from city Tax Increment Financing and city keno funds.

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Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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