Heartland of America Park at The RiverFront

  • Location
    Omaha, NE
  • Completion Date
  • Size
    31 acres
  • Team
    Architect: Gensler; Safdie Rabines Architects
    Engineer: HDR; M&R Global
    MEP Engineer: Alvine Engineering
    Water Feature Designer: Fluidity Design Consultants
    Signage + Wayfinding Designer: RSM Design
    Lighting Designer: Atelier Ten
    Ecologist: Applied Ecological Services
    Soils Consultant: Pine & Swallow
    Play Consultant: Studio Ludo
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Heartland of America Park is the second of a three-phase project that implements the Riverfront Revitalization Master Plan in Downtown, Omaha. This plan was a two year effort that reconnects downtown Omaha and Council Bluffs Park systems to the Missouri River and transforms the parks into an active space with social and recreational areas to serve the expanding community. Constructed in 1990 and originally envisioned as a pastoral park featuring a central lake, iconic fountain, and walking paths, Heartland of America Park had little active programming or recreation.

Due to an existing flood wall and active railyard, access to the river was severely limited. The central lake was a synthetic lake that had no water quality value and contributed little to the activation of the space. Working closely with the city, US Army Corps of Engineers, and other local and federal agencies, a portion of the lake was regraded to improve usable area, improve views, and provide pedestrian access to the river via the Farnam Pier. Envisioned as an iconic structure hovering over the banks of the river, the Pier anchors the east end of the park with unobstructed views of the Missouri River and downtown.

The park now offers a series of amenities that encourage community and social engagement including, a central recreational lawn, lake-edge amphitheatre, four-season skate ribbon, multi-use spaces, and large native prairie gardens. An extension to Douglas Avenue, from the downtown core through the park, provides ease of multi-modal access between the newly active Heartland of America and Lewis and Clark Landing parks. To ensure the long-term health of the native planting, we implemented water-efficient irrigation, bioretention facilities, and specialized soils throughout the park.

Heartland of America Park has special destinations that include a central recreational lawn, lake edge amphitheater, four-season skate ribbon, multi-use spaces, and large native prairie gardens.

The Skate Ribbon is a four-season attraction, with roller-skating in the warmer months, and ice-skating in the colder months. A dynamic lighting system creates an additional layer of activity and clear sightlines, while also indicating the flow of skate traffic.

Large swaths of native planting line the edge of the restored lake, which abuts the Conagra campus. The lakeside amphitheater is a place for gathering for a multitude of performances and community events.

The Farnam Pier bridge, designed by Safdie Rabines Architects, extends over the working rail lines and offers sweeping views of the Missouri River. Already a focal point from downtown and across the River, a changing light scheme at night beckons visitors.