Millwork Commons project breathes new life into historic downtown district | Sponsored Features
By Celena Shepherd / Special for Olsson
More than 140 years ago, innovative carpenters and furniture makers filled Omaha’s bustling downtown. At the turn of the 21st century, businesses were sold or closed, and historic brick buildings stood empty for years.
This once gritty, industrial economic center is now revitalized into Millwork Commons, a 50-acre neighborhood that breathes new life into downtown Omaha while preserving the area’s authentic industrial roots.
And there is more to come.
The long-term goal of Millwork Commons is to strengthen Omaha’s urban core and add a culturally vibrant and inclusive space for creators, innovators and community. Located near 13th and Nicholas streets, the project includes commercial, residential and office space, as well as a unique park and adjacent skate park.
Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture has recruited Lincoln-based engineering firm Olsson to help design the sustainable, inclusive and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood for Black Dog Management, owner of Millwork Commons.
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Katie Underwood, head of Olsson’s Omaha General Civil team, said Millwork Commons is a unique project that will be a great asset to the city.
“I think Millwork Commons is important from a community perspective because it’s a registered historic district in Nebraska,” says Underwood, who is also Olsson’s project manager. “This development preserves a great neighborhood of Omaha, which is very cool, because otherwise who knows what would have happened with those grand old buildings.”
Olsson was commissioned to use the rich history of Millwork Commons to design a creative, welcoming and sustainable space. The firm’s engineers took up the challenge.
Olsson provided essential civil design, surveying, geotechnical and traffic services for the 200,000 square foot Ashton building and surrounding road network. The company also provided civil engineering services for the 171 Hello Apartments, which are due to open this summer.
Olsson helped Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture design the 40,000 square foot Millwork Park, which opened in November 2021. Underwood partnered with landscape architect Olsson Studio Kayla Meyer to do the work.
The company produced efficient, pedestrian-friendly, civilian designs for the park, which include a green space, basketball court, children’s play area, dining and entertainment areas, and a skate park. Olsson pioneered the idea of including a dedicated spot for skaters at Millwork Park, and it’s now Omaha’s first skate park with lights for evening use.
Millwork Park is far more unique. Like fully organic plants and an urban tree planting technique, the first of its kind in Omaha, using the RootSpace soil cell system. Meyer selected thousands of native plants and worked with a local nursery, Mulhall’s, to grow plants from seed especially for the park.
“It was really amazing to see Millwork Park come together,” Meyer said. “It’s a forward-thinking, eco-friendly and truly unique park.”
Like Millwork Commons, Olsson implements innovative techniques and sustainable design solutions throughout the project. With nearly half of its 50 acres developed, the neighborhood has positioned itself as a hub for creators and innovators and a place of community enjoyment.
Olsson is a nationally recognized engineering firm made up of people who develop expert solutions and designs that improve communities. The company offers design and consulting services in planning and design, engineering, field services, environment and technology. For more information, visit www.olsson.com.