Downtown revitalization is crucial to presenting new opportunities to younger generations. The goal for Nebraska’s rural communities is to provide for upcoming generations and to bring in new families. This involves appealing to entrepreneurs who want to find a downtown district right for their businesses, as well as families and residents who are excited about a variety of activities that may be offered there.
Ogallala (pop. 4,737) is a community that has fully embraced this concept.
“We can target and help grow local artists and entrepreneurs and provide them with a local support team that wants to see their dreams realized,” said Travis Haggard, Executive Director from Keith County Area Development, on why being able to have Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) downtown revitalization funds is good for rural communities. He also states that the goal is not to compete with big cities, but to foster a better sense of community identity and pride within the hardworking rural communities.
This project is being funded by $350,000 CDBG funds, along with $310,000 additional funds in the form of taxes and grants. Ogallala received $250,000 in Community Development Assistance Act grants and the town raised $30,000 from the Visitors Committee. There is a total of $660,000 going towards the project. The entire revitalization project is slated to finish in February 2014. This project serves the national objective of the prevention or elimination of slums and blighted areas.
A few projects have been targeted to improve the downtown area. The first is called an “AlleyWave”, connecting the main downtown parking lot to main street. The alley will feature a variety of colored concrete artfully constructed to depict the heritage of the area. Historical/natural features will include Lake McConaughy, the Platte rivers, and the Ogallala Aquifier.
A second project is underway to revamp many downtown building facades.
A final project involved creating a “signature” for Ogallala—an element that says “This is Ogallala.” In order to do this, there will be a full coverage permanent steel pavilion over the main parking lot, which is bound to attract the attention of any passing drivers.
Because the ever popular Lake McConaughy, which attracts about one million visitors annually between Memorial Day and Labor Day, is situated near Ogallala, it was imperative that the city’s downtown be improved to better meet the needs and interests of guests to the area, said Haggard. Ogallala will soon be positioned to provide more day time and night time activities, including farmers markets, concerts, and local artist’s showcases among others.