Neighbors warmed up to some design changes, but still are balking at the bulkiness of a controversial condo project proposed for their historic Blackstone neighborhood.
“It’s still way oversized for the block,” said Rhonda Stuberg, president of the Blackstone Neighborhood Association. “If nothing else, we’re making an objection that could be helpful to other neighborhoods.”
A month has passed since the Omaha Planning Board delayed a vote to give real estate developer Jay Noddle of Noddle Cos. time to meet with neighbors who objected to the size, style and placement of a $6 million condo building.
The for-sale condos are proposed for the southeast corner of 38th Street and Dewey Avenue, where a rundown house now sits at 501 S. 38th St. Many of the opponents are people who bought and restored mansions and other historic homes in the area when Blackstone and its neighboring business district weren’t as attractive to real estate developers seeking to build close to the fast-growing University of Nebraska Medical Center.
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Starting soon after last month’s Planning Board meeting, which featured contentious testimony, Noddle and his team met a few times with residential leaders.
Mark Maser, a homeowner across the street from the project site, said he appreciated the developers making “substantial” concessions that included angling the top floor, reducing the number of units from 15 to 13, relocating an elevator tower and creating inset porches instead of hanging balconies.
All made for a more “handsome” building — “hands down” better than the one originally presented, he said.
“At the same time, we’re saying, it’s still too big,” Maser said.
On Monday night, the neighborhood association held its regular meeting. The Noddle team attended to field questions. At the close, Stuberg said, the group of about 15 voted unanimously to affirm the group’s earlier resolution opposing the project.
They did so, she said, knowing that the Planning Board probably will push the project forward when it meets Wednesday. The Planning Department staff, recommending approval of the condo building, has advised that the project is allowed under new city regulations and infill design guidelines intended to bolster redevelopment and housing opportunities in older neighborhoods.
But it is those new guidelines that now have galvanized the Blackstone Neighborhood Association. Stuberg said her group has invited other neighborhood groups to join them in their continued fight against allowing flexibility to developers that could change the character of a neighborhood.
“I don’t think this type of thing would happen in west Omaha,” she said.
Jay Noddle said his team during the past month made “dramatic” architectural changes to the proposed condo building, including reorienting the entrance to help satisfy the neighbor concerns.
He said the average anticipated condo cost of about $400,000 might increase as a result. Noddle said he was willing to take on related challenges to help “set a standard” and be a “good neighbor” with housing redevelopment likely to continue in the midtown area.