Gene Leahy family celebrates grand re-opening as Omaha prepares for area’s next phases

The Leahy family reacts to Omaha's new mall
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Many in the city have been waiting for about three years for the reopening of the revitalized Gene Leahy Mall, but there’s one Omaha family that was most anxious to see the new version of the area.

Members of the Gene Leahy family were at Friday’s ribbon-cutting unveiling the big changes happening at the Riverfront. For Brian Leahy, the family’s second-youngest of seven children, looking at the new mall that bears his father’s name created an emotional moment.

“It’s beautiful; it’s amazing,” Brian Leahy said. “He would be proud.”

The old mall became Omaha’s signature view for years. It was the city’s postcard — and it was needed to bring downtown Omaha back to life.

“It was the vision of some business people downtown and Mayor Gene Leahy that built this Gene Leahy Mall in the mid-70s,” Mayor Jean Stothert said Friday. “It was with a grant from HUD for green spaces that doesn’t exist anymore, but what they wanted was a beautiful central park in downtown Omaha to revitalize downtown and bring people back downtown.”

Now, the mall has a new look but the same purpose to strengthen the city’s core and attract people to the downtown area.

“This just carries on that vision of Mayor Gene Leahy and making this a park that everyone can enjoy right in the middle of our town and to connect us to our most important geographic feature which is the Missouri River,” Stothert said.

People are already coming out to see the revitalized Gene Leahy Mall. Some of them are too young to remember the former mayor, but old enough to enjoy his vision of downtown Omaha.

“He was the earliest visionary,” Brian Leahy said. “Back in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, other visionaries come along and put it in the ground; and now we have new visionaries that saw there was really a need to upgrade and modernize.”

All in an effort to bring people to the public space, he said.

“We can bring in the new next generation of people that want to live work and play here in Omaha, and I think he would love this. It’s beautiful,” he said.

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