Omaha officials want new state-based incentives to spur efforts to redevelop Crossroads Mall and the surrounding area.
A plan to bring a bill before the Legislature next year, however, doesn't yet have the support of the City Council. A lack of specifics in the proposal drove the council to delay voting Tuesday on Mayor Jim Suttle's request to endorse such legislation.
The Suttle administration is still working with state senators, other cities and the League of Nebraska Municipalities to craft the bill's exact language and scope by January.
One provision could enhance so-called state turnback tax laws that drive money gained from business development into the costs of a project, adding a new option to available incentives such as tax-increment financing.
Suttle said any proposal would have to avoid conflicts with the state constitution and make the new incentives available to communities across Nebraska.
Omaha's interest is aimed squarely at reviving the Crossroads Mall area and the 72nd Street corridor to Interstate 80 as a massive hub for retail and housing activity.
“This whole area is now in the center of the metropolitan area, and it needs a renaissance,” Suttle said.
“All I can tell you right now is we know that we need a tool in the toolbox that is bigger than anything we've looked at before, but we've got a lot of real, real hard work ahead of us. ... It's an idea that we're trying to take from a concept to something of substance.”
Under the proposal, local governments still would have to approve using the new incentives, Suttle said. And any project still would rise or fall on the whims of the private financing market.
Last year, Omaha officials approved a redevelopment zone that included the four commercial corners at 72nd and Dodge Streets, stretched south to Pacific Street to take in the Nebraska Furniture Mart and turned west to 84th Street.
Developers want to “de-mall” Crossroads, maintaining anchor stores Target, Sears and Barnes & Noble while turning the enclosed mall into open-air shops, offices and housing.
“It's, to me, a huge mixed-use development with all the things we would see at Midtown Crossing, probably times five,” Suttle said.
The development would feature ample public space, because it's likely that any new incentives could solely fund public infrastructure improvements.
“It could be a street, sidewalk, parking, a fountain, trees, whatever,” Suttle said.
Crossroads' developers still are negotiating details such as leases and holding talks with tenants who might occupy the new development.
Updated figures on the potential cost of the Crossroads project are being developed, Suttle said, adding that he's pushing to find out how much the developer is willing to invest.
“This legislation, if it passes, gives us the flexibility to negotiate the terms and conditions with how the package would come together with our role as a city,” the mayor said.
The push for new development incentives would be part of a larger set of bills that aim to change constitutional language on tax-increment financing, develop vacant property in Omaha and spur tax credits for developing historic buildings. Council members endorsed those items Tuesday and will revisit the Crossroads proposal in three weeks.
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