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Editorial, 12/30: South Beltway offers Lincoln chance to dream

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South Beltway 68th Street, 7.21

Construction of the South Beltway proceeds in this photo from South 68th Street looking east on Wednesday.

If you haven’t been down to Rokeby Road to see the under-construction South Beltway, it’s worth the trip. Immense and awesome, it feels like a project of grandeur that only a major metropolitan area would contemplate.

Two decades ago, two Nebraska companies — Nebraska Furniture Mart and Cabelas, pioneered new locations on a beltway in a dusty farm field west of Kansas City. Today Legends development is a bustling mix of sports, entertainment, and tourism that even in the COVID-ravaged economy of 2020 contributed an enviable 17% of Wyandotte County, Kansas, sales tax.

Similarly, West Des Moines capitalized on beltways leading to Chicago and Minneapolis early on with Living History Farms and insurance headquarters, then added malls. Its own corporate citizen, Hy-Vee, which located at this nexus of interstates, employs over 500 people alone at the local corporate headquarters building, and has approximately $10 billion in annual sales. Nebraska Furniture has also located in West Des Moines, and most recently, local home-grown West Bank announced a new headquarters on I-235.

As we view our own new monumental miles of concrete and open fields, it’s an exciting exercise to think what could someday be:

An employment center focused on trucking that keeps shipping rates lower since we are located in the center of the nation.

A magnet for more companies to relocate to Nebraska in the corridor between Lincoln-based Monolith’s carbon-black manufacturing plant in Hallam, and the beltway.

A town center with local and national restaurant chains, brewery boulevards, and wine tasting shops from area wineries.

A unique regional museum honoring indigenous peoples and recent generations who have arrived in Nebraska to escape suffering and persecution.

An unprecedented affordable housing development that our nation could study and replicate, featuring relaxed costly governmental regulation and containing innovative, cost-saving materials, appropriate for the incomes attainable by Lincolnites.

A medical research facility, or rural hospital services to support our own overburdened hospital system in Lincoln.

A professional sports team.

A water park.

In the mid 2000s, several local corporate leaders unified with Vision 2015, a plan to infill Antelope Valley and redevelop the West Haymarket. Not only did they invest their own corporate capital, they worked with city officials to bring a dream into reality that put Lincoln on the national radar. This is the leadership we need now.

This is our chance to dream, to imagine.

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