The 500-acre Heartwood site was once part of Boys Town, an institution founded by Father Flanagan to care for and educate orphans. This was the last parcel of farmland that had been surrounded by urban sprawl. Our client, Applied Underwriters, had plans to develop the site that would anchor their corporate campus.
This site is also within a watershed that was recently ravaged by unprecedented storms and floods, a weather pattern that is being normalized thanks to climate change. The Omaha community suffered over 1.3 billion dollars in damages due to recent floods, farms were shuttered, and families lost homes.
Reshaping and rethinking the watershed for flood control was essential for the development, that included 40 acres for the Applied Underwriters headquarters, a 25-acre central park, and a pedestrian promenade thatlinks the Central Park to the Greenways. With more than 130 acres of open space composed of native prairie and forest ecologies, the Greenways provided the necessary grounds to store 170 acre-feet of stormwater.
Providing a timeless respite for contemplation and recreation, the Greenways include more than 14 miles of trails that meander through 13 iconic and meticuloulsy crafted stormwater detention vessels, linking the entire development with connections to Omaha’s larger multi-model trail network.
What were the key challenges?
Flood Mitigation: Disastrous flooding is becomingthe new normal of a changing climate, a problem exacerbated in this region by sprawling urbanization that increases impervious runoff and associated flood-level peak flows.
Fusing infrastructure and art:
Prior to the involvement of MSLA, watershed detention was conceived solely to address the utility of managing storm water, with a series of unremarkable basins that were pushed against the western boundary of the project. Supported by Applied Underwriter’s desire to go beyond the unexpected, MSLA got on board and created a new vision for the site…....one expressed a hyper efficient hydraulic infrastructure as art. The backbone of project is a purposeful progression of sculpted water vessels that display and cleanse massive amounts of water and mitigate flooding.
What materials did you choose and why?
The landscape uses the simplest of materials; the earth, native grasses and trees,and limestone blocks from midwestern quarries. Thecomposition of these materials set up poetic reveals of stormwater detention, retention and infiltration and tell a story. The landscape was created for our age by allowing nature to bear witness. Over time these experiences will hopefully foster awareness and a connection to the natural world.