Groundbreaking Sustainability: The Riverfront’s Pioneering Green Achievement

Omaha residents have been enjoying a revitalized RiverFront ever since Gene Leahy Mall opened in July of 2022, but many might not know of its other groundbreaking achievement
in sustainability.

In 2021, the Riverfront Revitalization Project received an Envision award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, the first project in Nebraska to win such a distinction. Officially completed in 2023, the project encompassed Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing. Visitors can now come to the RiverFront for live concerts and recreational activities or explore the Kiewit Luminarium.

In addition to its pioneering green achievements, the project landed HDR a Grand Award for ACEC’s 2024 Engineering Excellence Awards. HDR’s engineering team helped bring the vision of a cohesive public space to reality, with sustainable principles at the forefront.

“The park was designed with green infrastructure and sustainability in mind, including recycling everything that was removed during construction,” said HDR Senior Project Manager Chris Koenig.

What is Envision and how do projects earn the distinction? 

ISI’s framework for Envision ensures infrastructure projects follow its guidelines for assessing sustainability, resiliency and equity, according to ISI. Project managers wanting to follow Envision guidelines use 64 sustainability and resilience indicators in five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World and Climate & Resilience. So, how can projects receive Envision awards? Individuals can earn the Envision Sustainability Professional credential and earn the distinction via a third party through ISI’s Verification Program. Those interested in more details can visit

The RiverFront’s Platinum Win

A large part of the RiverFront’s Platinum status comes from its high score in the Quality of Life category. The project scored eight points, plus eight bonus points, notably for its children’s play area in the Gene Leahy Mall. Additionally, the project employed a large number of local workers, restored and repurposed existing community landmarks, added more public space, improved mobility and incorporated historical buildings and the iconic Gene Leahy Mall slides in its design. The RiverFront includes sculpture gardens, event lawns, performance areas, interactive water features, a dog park, a skating ribbon and an urban beach.

Not only did the project provide public space which has been an unmatched effort of placemaking for Omaha, but it also built the future into its vision.

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“Statues, limestone blocks and removed bridges were installed at other parks. The sustainable design focused on future operations with soil profiles designed to encourage long-term tree growth, drip irrigation to reduce water usage, stormwater detention ponds woven into the landscape, and LED lights to reduce the energy footprint,” Koenig said.