Lincolnopolis Urban Design Studio

Lincoln’s population is expected to increase by 65% between 2000 and 2040, bringing the population to 431,000 people. 

In only the last 25 years, the total area of developed land in the United States grew to over 110 million acres, a net increase of 57 percent. 

Land conversions attribute most significantly to losses in cropland, forestland, rangeland and pasture, diminishing the capacity of our land as a food resource. This is especially important in the peri-urban realm as 58 percent of total U.S. agricultural production comes from areas classified as metropolitan.

The majority of new housing construction is occurring at the city’s outer-edge and is marketed towards the city’s upper middle classes, with only 320 units of public housing. Students in this studio looked critically at the challenges facing Lincoln, Nebraska, identifying several that, while not receiving much attention today, will need to be considered going forward. They firstly explored historic and projected urban growth in Lincoln, Nebraska, which displays a uniform and concentric pattern of sprawl and continues to invade and diminish conservation land, streams, lakes, important soils, ecological networks, and agricultural sustainability. The negative connotations of land development are due to a lack of healthy guidelines and regulation standards that should be in place to benefit the environment. In an effort to combat against food and ecological resource losses, students attempted to provide a new framework for development, based on the conservation and preservation of prime farmland and open space networks.

They recognized that given current state-wide and nationwide demographic trends, the primary source of growth will come from immigrants and migrant workers, who are attracted by employment opportunities available in Lincoln where there is a high demand for labour in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Unfortunately, the current housing stock in Lincoln is ill-equipped for this influx of population. The majority of immigrants coming to Nebraska are laborers with low levels of education, high levels of poverty and are concentrated in low income occupations. The labor is vital to the city’s economy as immigrants take jobs that local residents do not want, such as those in the meatpacking industry. Yet, immigration and the housing demands it will place on the city are not addressed in the city’s 2040 plan, or in current housing development projects. Students argued this must be considered going forward. Lastly, as a mid-size Midwestern city, Lincoln does not have significant traffic congestion, but under current land-use scenarios is expected to develop congestion towards the southern parts of the city where most new growth is happening.

This will be driven by both residential development and industrial development taking advantage of Lincoln’s ideal location just two days from almost anywhere in the country. Students designed plans to redirect growth in the area towards towns strategically located near highways to help avoid this problem, while providing an opportunity to create a community that serves people at both the human and automobile scales.