Supporters behind the entertainment district planned for Aksarben Village say the area will cater to a “grown-up” crowd.

The Omaha City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to sign off on a request by Noddle Companies for a permit for the district, which will allow people to walk around a designated common area with alcoholic drinks.

City Councilwoman Aimee Melton abstained, citing a potential conflict.

The area will be between engineering and architecture firm HDR’s new headquarters on the corner of 67th and Frances Streets and a parking garage directly east.

The area, basically an outdoor alley, is to be known as the Inner Rail, a nod to Aksarben’s history as a racetrack. It’s expected to open in mid-2019 and grow in phases, eventually to Shirley Street, as the area develops more.

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An opponent of the project, Chris Wagner, executive director of Project Extra Mile, a group that works to prevent alcohol-related problems, raised concerns about the district’s proximity to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where underage people attend classes.

But developer Jay Noddle said the district isn’t designed for the college crowd. And he said prices in the area will “kind of weed that out,” referring to younger people.

Wagner also suggested that patrons be required to wear wristbands within the district, calling them a small inconvenience to ensure that youths are safe. But Noddle pushed back against such a requirement because, he said, individual restaurants have a duty to serve people responsibly.

Noddle said the area will be more focused on food, as opposed to bars. A rendering shows a food hall-type concept, with options like ramen and wood-fired pizza. Tenants, which will be in the base of the HDR building and parking garage to the east, are expected to be announced in a couple of weeks, Noddle said.

2018-07-27 - 18025-InnerRail_InteriorRendering

A rendering of the Inner Rail, the entertainment district proposed for the Aksarben development, shows a food hall-type concept, with options like ramen and wood-fired pizza.

“We’re very proud of this,” he said of the district. “We think it’s going to add an awful lot to Aksarben Village, and to the community.”

Jen Bauer, president of the Aksarben/Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association, said her group supports the endeavor.

“We feel that the Inner Rail is going to be a more grown-up rendition of an entertainment district in Omaha,” she said.

Omaha has one other such entertainment zone, downtown at the Capitol District near 10th Street and Capitol Avenue.

City Councilman Chris Jerram, whose district includes Aksarben, said an additional area within Aksarben, near the building that houses Pacific Life Insurance Co., may be contemplating applying to become an entertainment district.

Noddle said his group isn’t working on plans for another district. The Pacific Life structure was built as a joint venture by Magnum Development Corp. and McNeil Co.

Jerram said he expects that Noddle’s entertainment district will be managed professionally. “I want to give you a tip of the hat,” he said to Noddle.

In other council business:

» The council OK’d an agreement under which the Omaha Municipal Land Bank will give the city $500,000 each year over the next four years to demolish more troubled properties.

In exchange, the city will work to clear demolition liens, which are charges that stay with the property when the city demolishes a structure but the property owner doesn’t pay.

» The council signed off on the city’s 2019 legislative agenda, which included 11 proposals that the city will ask to be introduced or the city will support, if introduced.

Among the priorities is one that would ask a state senator to introduce a bill that wouldn’t allow the immediate release of evidence, such as transcripts and exhibits, in grand jury cases in which a police officer is indicted. The information would be made available to the public after an officer’s criminal proceedings are over.

Jerram and Council President Ben Gray voted against approving the grand jury proposal.

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