Omaha receives “Smart Cities” grant to plan smarter development
October 31st, 2012
Omaha, NE- Tech giant IBM is donating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of planning and technology services to the City of Omaha to help deal with suburban growth and urban decay.
The City of Omaha was one of 24 cities worldwide to receive a grant from IBM as part of its â€œSmarter Cities Challenge.â€
IBM city planning experts from China, the Netherlands and Germany have donated roughly $400,000 worth of planning services to help lay the groundwork for innovative and â€œsmarterâ€ city planningâ€”tackling both suburban sprawl and deteriorating urban areas.
Derek Miller, Transportation Planner for the City of Omaha, said the socioeconomic dynamics of the city made it an attractive candidate for the grant.
â€œOmaha does have a low unemployment rate but at the same time, we have targeted areas that have a high unemployment rates,” Miller said. “So they saw our communities at risk…and they felt we had a good mix of things that weâ€™ve done and things that we still need to do.â€
Safety, education, transportation and environmental concerns are just a few of the factors being analyzed.
Both the city and the IBM team are interviewing businesses, non-profits and neighborhood associations for their input on what theyâ€™d like to see in their areas.
Miller said, â€œThe issue that we wanted them to look at is basically how we can grow more balanced as a community, encourage more in-fill development… and continue to allow suburban development but more in a, I guess, more sustainable way.â€
Miller said the idea is not to curb growth in Omahaâ€™s western side but to create better options within the city for all Omaha residents.
IBM will give a presentation of its proposal Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the University of Nebraska Omaha Thompson Alumni Center. City officials will integrate the IBM proposal with their own plans, but a date for that has not yet been set.
City officials said Omaha is not obligated to purchase any IBM software or technology.