The news The Telegraph had the honor to break Wednesday took our breath away.
Platte River Mall, “The Mall” (even by name) for many years past, has passed from out-of-state owners to two partners with regional ties and the resources, experience and determination to make it a west central Nebraska drawing card again.
That would be big news at any time, given that the 48-year-old mall is showing its age and has struggled since national “big box” contractions claimed its longtime anchors.
But think about the timing — in this COVID-19 year of all years:
» The mall’s sale happened a month after downtown’s Parkade Plaza came into local ownership, the Canteen District’s 7½-month “bricks” street reconstruction wrapped up (with North Dewey storefronts now full and street-level beautification also underway) and the 1929 Hotel Pawnee’s restoration finally begun.
» It was announced just two weeks after North Platte voters resoundingly renewed the city’s Quality Growth Fund, our reserved pool of city sales-tax money to help us grow our economy from within and without.
» And all the above has happened as multiple new investments here have been physically taking shape (Chief Development Inc., Pacific Place Apartments expansion), envisioned (via the North Platte-inspired “microTIF” law to encourage older-home rehabilitation), unveiled (the proposed industrial “rail park” near Hershey) and cleared to begin (West A Street and Lakeview Boulevard).
Once again, we say to all Nebraska: North Platte has not given up.
Not even in the midst of a pandemic.
This is what happens when people believe in themselves, each other and their community.
We’re overjoyed that several years of hard, often contentious work to renew our city — by many more people than we can name here — is paying off so rapidly in this most unlikely of years.
Most of them will forgive us, we think, for saying we’re especially glad Mayor Dwight Livingston has gotten to see all this on his watch as he concludes half a century of public service to North Platte.
Throughout more than 40 years with our Police Department, followed by eight years as mayor, Livingston has lived and proclaimed the belief in North Platte and its people that led him here after serving our country during the Vietnam War.
The job of mayor in our city isn’t built to be as powerful as it is elsewhere. But mayors and public officials who can build bridges and encourage others can be decisively influential in ways law books can never envision.
Livingston has been such a mayor, both publicly and at times when discretion required him to be reticent while others longed for or demanded proof of progress.
We deeply thank him, as well as the four council members and other public officials who will give way to newly elected ones over the coming weeks.
North Platte has by no means set all its needs on the road to resolution. Many blocks north of the Union Pacific tracks, for example, need the same economic renaissance we’re seeing in the Canteen District and now expect to see at the mall.
That said, downtown and the mall were by far the most prominent areas needing revitalization as North Platte builds a more broadly based economy better equipped to withstand the economic gyrations at the U.P.’s still invaluable Bailey Yard.
Both now are unmistakably on their way. That’s delicious to ponder when one recalls the 1970s and the economic shocks downtown absorbed from The Mall’s debut on April 12, 1972.
Both always had key roles in pumping North Platte’s lifeblood and luring tourists, regional shoppers and diners. Now they’re being revived nearly simultaneously.
As we welcome Lincoln’s Mike Works (a relative of the late North Platte real estate agent Wes Grady) and his team to town, remember what our mall’s new principal owner said in Thursday’s Telegraph.
He well knows that North Platte has long been a regional hub, boasting the junction of major national highways and the linchpin of America’s first and largest transcontinental railroad.
We’d add that our people, when we set aside our day-to-day frustrations, have the largest of hearts.