Ashton Building, Millwork Commons
Omaha sits on the border of Nebraska and Iowa, on the Missouri river, and plumb in the middle of the southern 48 states. It was not officially settled until 1854, when the Omaha tribe of Native Americans signed a treaty and sold 4 million acres, although some land had been illegally staked before then.
Being in the center of this vast continent, and in some of the best farming land in the world, Omaha became rich on serving the agricultural market. In the 1930’s and 40’s, the city became one of the worlds biggest meat packing centers, and had huge manufacturing plants to make everything that farmers needed, and the city grew rapidly. The Union Pacific Railroad company has its headquarters here, and thanks to the railway and the river, the city became a successful transportation and distribution hub.
As is often the case, the city sprawled outwards, and the Downtown area became predominately a poor area, and the Depression hit Omaha hard. Many companies closed, and many buildings had their use changed from industrial to warehousing. Among these were the furniture factories and mills of the Millwork Commons area, just a few blocks north of Downtown. These 130-year-old buildings have been transformed by this development, restored and repaired, and with new buildings nearby have become a truly mixed-use development, with office space, homes and retail all on the site.
One of the most attractive old buildings was the one known as the Ashton Building; a former furniture warehouse, it has been sympathetically restored to its former glory. To complement the building, the public realm has been innovatively landscaped with a mixture of trees and plants, combining the new perennial and biophilic design concepts. This gives a more natural feel to it than the usual manicured landscapes, and the designers, Alley Poyner Macchietto Architects and Olsson, as well as the landscape contractor Mulhalls, worked together to achieve a very high standard of planting.
One design criteria was that the landscape should be part of a stormwater management system, whereby the trees accommodate and attenuate rainwater. Using the GreenBlue Urban RootSpace ArborFlow tree pit system, the tree rooting zones can divert stormwater away from the drains, helping both with water management and with tree growth. It has been long proven that using trees as part of a drainage design results in better water control, and healthier trees – and a substantial cost saving over conventional methods. In this development, the RootSpace soil cell system below the paving coupled with the drainage inlets in the road surface, underdrained with a specialized stormwater drainage system called AdvanEdge, the system has the ability to not only attenuate water, but to treat it too, removing pollutants as the water passes through the soil. The RootSpace ArborSystem keeps the soil in optimum uncompacted condition, ideal for root establishment and thus tree growth.
This excellent installation will, without a doubt, mean that these street trees will continue to bring the many benefits that only healthy trees can. Future generations will enjoy the canopy cover that will become the trademark of this historic area, and as the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet said, “Someone today is sitting under a tree because someone planted that tree a long time ago.” A true son of Omaha who will approve of this landscape project!