When Nebraska celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017, Centennial Mall will be newly beautified and suitable for the historic festivities.
Give a big thank you to former Nebraskan Glenn Korff for pushing the fundraising effort to its goal with a $2 million donation -- the biggest gift in the history of the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department.
Korff, who grew up in Hebron and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, made his money in finance, working for Salomon Brothers and Goldman Sachs in New York City.
Korff said that as a child on car trips from his hometown to the state capital, he and his siblings would vie to see who could catch the first glimpse of the Capitol on the horizon.
The story surely resonates with the experience of hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who remember making the same trek in their childhood. As Korff, a fourth-generation Nebraskan, said, the memory is indelible.
Now that the $9.6 million goal has been reached -- credit indefatigable fundraiser Patty Pansing Brooks, Roger Larson, Mary Arth and Susan Larson Rodenburg -- construction of the four outer blocks on the mall can begin this fall.
Those blocks, which are the pedestrian plazas at both ends of the seven-block mall, are the most important. The renovation of the three inner blocks on the mall, which are open to traffic, was completed this spring as part of a downtown street improvement project.
Although a mall connecting the Capitol and the university was envisioned by architect Bertram Goodhue, it did not become a reality until it was built in 1967 to commemorate the state's centennial.
Over the years, the mall gradually deteriorated. Walkways and steps crumbled. The fountains were shut down. The pools were filled with dirt.
People learned from the experience. This time, the $9.6 million in funds includes a $1.5 million endowment to provide a steady source of funding to help maintain the mall.
It won't be long now before people can take a stroll down the new walkways that will be part of the revitalized mall, enjoying the trees, plantings, benches and other features. QR codes and Wi-Fi will provide in-depth information on famous Nebraskans and historical events.
As Korff said, "This is a project that sells itself. The renovation of Centennial Mall will benefit the state of Nebraska, the city of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska for generations to come. I'm happy to be a part of it."
All Nebraskans can be grateful that Korff never forgot his roots and the excitement of a trip to the Capitol.