What an exciting time to live and work in downtown Norfolk. Just about everything is within walking distance, with many more offerings planned in the coming years. For environmentally conscious young people who often choose to live in urban areas where that is possible, that’s a huge selling point.
By now, many Northeast Nebraskans have heard or read about a redevelopment plan in downtown Norfolk that would take advantage of the city’s recreational river plans that have been on-going — along with a new proposed development plan.
"I would venture to say that there is no other city in Nebraska approaching it (development) like this," said Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said. "These things coming together are all happening at the right time."
We agree. Much of it is because Norfolk seems ideally situated for such development with the North Fork of the Elkhorn River — which gave the town its early life with a mill and provided the first area for settlement — at the heart of it all. Now it is giving life again with recreational opportunities that will help attract young people and visitors. That’s especially needed when there are no nearby mountains, forests or large lakes to attract tourists.
Other plans include developing about a three-block-by-seven-block area of downtown into 300 high-quality rental units, new businesses that complement the residential improvements and a core group of about 1,000 young people who will be living and working in the downtown.
Nearby attractions include the newly expanded library that makes it one of the best libraries in the state, one of the best and largest YMCAs in the state, running and biking trails, along with a growing art and cultural environment, more green space, an outdoor amphitheater and more proposals in the works.
Other plans are a college scholarship program with Wayne State College and Northeast Community College supplying students to work for downtown businesses to complete their education. Imagine new high tech businesses getting started in downtown Norfolk through business incentives.
We agree with Dr. Marysz Rames, president of Wayne State College, who said there are a lot of moving parts to the idea, which will take place in stages.
So what happens next? Mike Flood, a former state senator and businessman, and others serving on a 25-member committee will continue to pitch the proposals, speak publicly about it, seek grants and consider other possible funding sources.
We think it is important to get behind the mayor, Flood, and others who are trying to keep the community healthy. As they and others who have studied the problem of the brain drain have concluded, if we don’t do anything, we know what will happen.