One Smart City

How Omaha’s mindful growth is producing a healthier, happier and more productive community.

Omaha metro is more than a tangle of streets, buildings, vehicles and pedestrians. More than a commotion of horns, screeches and sirens. More than just a place where our homes and businesses reside.

Omaha is a living, breathing entity that’s tied to our identity, health and happiness.

As you’ve inevitably noticed, our fair city has been experiencing tremendous growth over the past few years, which, as with most population expansions, comes with a host of pros and cons. Working on behalf of Omaha’s more than 466,000 residents (and growing) is Omaha By Design, a broad group of forward-thinking community leaders who’ve set out to advocate for and help with smart city planning.

“Smart cities” is an approach to urban design that’s focused on how to better serve a city’s residents and the best ways to connect them to what they need to thrive. Smart cities have a hand in generating smart growth, smart jobs and smart citizens.

Since its inception in 2001, Omaha By Design has been facilitating collaboration among developers, planners, designers, regulators and other practitioners to allow for smart city planning and building; educating and engaging residents so they have a say in what they want to see done; and advocating for best practices among elected officials and stakeholders.

“Urban design surrounds and sustains city life. It combines the time-tested principles and innovative ideas that enable vibrant growth. It invites people to visit, start businesses, and invest in neighborhoods. And by design, it connects people to places and each other.”

Scott Dobbe
Executive Director, Omaha by Design

Currently, Omaha By Design is working on a few different pilot projects to address key issues that will greatly improve the quality of life for residents: access to employment opportunities, transportation awareness and engagement, and seamless mobility.

“We want to educate people on the many choices they have to move in and around the metro area. It’s been ingrained in us that the best way to get from point A to point B is by driving a car. That’s not true anymore,” said Scott Dobbe, Executive Director of Omaha By Design. “We have options with our transit system, with emerging technology and with newer modes of transportation to get us where we need to go in the smartest, most efficient way possible.”

Part of the process has been to expand Omaha By Design’s partnership role in a Smart Cities initiative by hiring Keegan Korf to serve as a Smart Cities coordinator, a position that was made possible by the $150,000 operating grant from the Peter Kiewit Foundation. Keegan is now helping guide the implementation of technology-enabled Smart Cities pilot projects and districts.

“We’re finding better ways to use what we already have,” said Dobbe. “This provides the largest return on our investments and allows us to grow with intention, not just build for building’s sake. This is our city and we should all have a say in what happens here. After all, the city we shape, in turn, shapes us.”