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Council approves plaza location
December 18, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
With a unanimous vote of the Gering City Council, the proposed downtown civic plaza will now be located behind Valley Bank and Trust between N and O Streets.

The plaza will connect to 10th Street with the existing walkway between Valley Bank and Plummer Insurance.

The vote rescinds an earlier one, taken last June, to locate the plaza in the parking lot east of the Civic Center. The downtown plaza is part of a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which also includes funding for refurbishing building exteriors and adding landscaping.

The plaza itself will also include a water feature, a concert stage for live performances, and awnings for a farmers’ market.

At its Nov. 23 meeting, Council member Larry Gibbs expressed his concerns about placing the plaza in the Civic Center parking lot. “I think it’s a great project, just in the wrong place,” he said at the time. “Taking away that much parking adjacent to the Civic Center at a time of increased competition is a big mistake.”

Members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee met after that meeting and decided to support the earlier proposal of siting the plaza behind Valley Bank. They responded to concerns expressed by members of the public about taking out that much parking beside the civic center.

Committee Chairman George Schlothauer said now the council has decided on a location, they’ll move forward on getting the project started. “We still have a lot of work to do in finalizing the plan with the state, but we hope to be ready by next spring.”

Council member Larry Gibbs said he approved of the new location, but asked that during development, builders save the mature trees along the northwest side of the parking lot.

Fellow council member Don Christensen said he preferred the middle of the block because it would still allow for delivery access along O and N Streets for Main Street Appliances and the Union Bar.

Also at the meeting, Starr Lehl with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development told the council the city had earned recertification with NDED as a Nebraska Economic Development Certified Community.

“Gering is only one of 36 communities in the state that are certified,” Lehl said. “It’s quite an accomplishment that says you’re ready for growth and development.”

She said that since its first certification in 2010, the city has assisted three new manufacturers and nine new business locate to the community, resulting in 212 new jobs. The $350,000 grant for downtown redevelopment would not have been possible if the city hadn’t been certified.

Because it’s a Nebraska Economic Development Certified Community, Gering was also able to obtain grant funding for demolition of the former McKinley school building and for bringing a new supermarket to the downtown area.
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