The Omaha Planning Department shared its redevelopment goals for the 72nd and Dodge Streets area with more than 200 people Thursday night inside a vacant store in Crossroads Mall.

Officials passed out a 28-page plan that was clearly labeled as a “draft.”

“We're looking for public comment as we move forward,” said Planning Director Rick Cunningham. “This is not final.”

The preliminary plan outlined nine goals to redevelop the so-called Crossroads Economic Development Zone — a 329-acre area that includes the four commercial corners at 72nd and Dodge, stretches south to Pacific Street, taking in the Nebraska Furniture Mart, and turns west to 84th Street.

The goals include creating a “true” mixed-use area that provides retail, office and housing space, establishes the area as a key transportation hub and provides a more efficient network of streets and improved parking.

Area residents and merchants were eager to hear about the plan's components from planning officials and developers, but they were disappointed when the format did not include an overall presentation or panel discussion.

Instead, those who attended were directed to visit information stations scattered around the room and breakout sessions.

“I kind of got the idea there would be a presentation and then a question-and-answer session,” said Tom Failla,who stood with about 30 other people around a small table occupied by city planner Todd Swirczek and others. “This way, it's kind of confusing as to what the big picture is,” Failla said.

“I think they underestimated the amount of people who are interested in this plan,” said Anne Hurley, who lives nearby. “They didn't provide a sound system.”

Hurley said she liked the city's mixed-use plan but worried about how planners would deal with traffic and parking problems that plague the area. “I just want them to do it right and not have to come back to fix it.”

City traffic engineer Murthy Koti said one of the city's new goals is to create a multi-modal transportation hub in the area to bring people “back from the west.”

“We as a city are trying to be a catalyst here and create the private partnerships that will make this happen. The actual mall itself is a key piece of that,” Koti said.

Crossroads Mall owner Frank Krejci and developer Rodney Yates attended the meeting.

Their plans call for the existing mall to be torn down, replaced with an open-air retail and commercial center. Anchor tenants Target, Barnes & Noble and Sears would remain.

Yates told residents they planned to employ local architects and builders to redevelop the mall. However, Yates would not specify which retailers might occupy the redeveloped mall.

“I can tell you we will have a gourmet grocery,” Yates told Jeanne Penry, who asked whether the planned outdoor mall would have a supermarket.

Yates also said the redeveloped mall would include space for local retailers, a 135-room hotel and 400 to 500 residential units. “We're going to do some luxury apartments and some condos,” Yates said.

Planning officials said they will incorporate the public's ideas and concerns into the Crossroads Area Redevelopment Plan and continue to seek comment.

“People are so frustrated,” Penry said. “People need a vision for this area.”

The preliminary plan will be available online at the city's website, www.cityofomaha.org, next week.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1142, janice.podsada@owh.com

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