Resident Bequeaths $7.5M to Ralston’s Hinge Project


Concept art by HDR showing the plan for the Hinge project in Ralston, which seeks to connect the city’s 72nd Street corridor by the arena with its downtown district. (Courtesy City of Ralston)
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Ralston – A former Ralston resident will give $7.5 million toward an economic development effort known as the Hinge project.

The project will develop the area around 72nd and Main streets in Ralston, connecting the corridor by the Ralston Arena with the city’s downtown district.

The Hinge will include mixed-use development, entertainment and dining areas. Its goal is to bring new residents and businesses, providing more amenities to Ralston visitors and residents.

Mayor Don Groesser said the gift by LaDonna Johnson will put Ralston on the right path to the future by uniting the community.

“Her donation allows the city to be a strong partner with the private sector and bring the Hinge project to life,” Groesser said. “Existing businesses will benefit from the revitalization of our commercial areas. Taxpayers will benefit because the initial investment will come from the Johnson donation rather than city dollars. LaDonna’s amazing gift has ensured the Hinge will truly be a project for Ralston, by Ralston.”

The City of Ralston and Ralston Community Foundation Fund announced the gift last week at a news conference. Johnson was a proponent of the Hinge project, and she made the gift to further its efforts.

The money has already been used on some initial project costs, such as funding a master plan.

Ralston City Council member Michael Sanchez said the project is similar to investment that have revitalized other parts of the Omaha metropolitan area.

 “I have businesses in the Benson and Blackstone areas,” Sanchez said. “The Hinge is a similar concept. New housing brings a base of people. Walkable areas with features that encourage pedestrians increase foot traffic in commercial areas. These are exactly the kind of investments that attract entrepreneurs like me.”

Ralston has announced that development firm Urban Waters is interested in building a housing development that would be the first investment in the Hinge area.

“Ralston is demonstrating a community commitment to growth with the Hinge plan,” said Todd Zimbelman  of Urban Waters, a sister company of Urban Village Development. “Urban Waters is looking forward (to) working as partners with City Hall and the community to create a project that will make Ralston proud.”

Bill Haas, chair of the Ralston Community Foundation Fund Advisory Committee, said the “incredible gift” by the Johnson family is “a game changer for our community.” “LaDonna’s legacy will live on forever through her generosity and her belief in the future of Ralston,” Haas said.

Johnson was a piano teacher who died in 2016. Groesser said the donation was a great day in Ralston.

“Ralston is a great community with a high quality of life because of the foresight of those who came before us,” Groesser said. “Thanks to the Johnson family’s gift, that tradition will continue.”

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