Earlier this year, Omaha Housing Authority leaders were met with skepticism when they showed tenants a multimillion-dollar concept for redeveloping the Spencer Homes public housing project and its north Omaha neighborhood.
“One of our residents said, ‘That all sounds nice and good, but I’ll believe it when I see it,’ ” Housing Authority board member Jennifer Taylor said Monday. “Well, you can believe it, because you’re gonna see it.”
Optimism prevailed Monday as Taylor and other officials gathered on the sun-splashed deck of a new event center on North 30th Street to announce that the federal government will give Omaha a $25 million grant. The money will help demolish the worn-out barracks-style apartments of Spencer Homes, replace them with better housing and rejuvenate a nearby stretch of North 30th.
The grant comes from a Department of Housing and Urban Development program called the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Omaha was one of three cities nationwide that HUD announced Monday will receive funding this year through the competitive grant program.
Two Virginia cities, Newport News and Norfolk, will each receive $30 million. HUD also said Monday that it will award $30 million to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, if it makes certain changes to its plans.
Jason Mohr, a regional HUD administrator, said Choice Neighborhoods grants are focused on housing, people and neighborhoods. He listed three goals: replace distressed housing with high-quality, mixed-income housing options; connect the families HUD serves with employment, health and better education; and create conditions conducive to investment in better schools, more commercial activity and other neighborhood amenities.
He said Omaha had “established a new vision” of a stretch of North 30th that made it an excellent choice for the grants.
Mohr noted that Omaha’s grant application said it will leverage the HUD grant with $157 million in other investment, from philanthropists, private businesses and local government.
He was joined by Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., Omaha City Council President Ben Gray, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and Earl Redrick, director of HUD’s Omaha office, to make the announcement.
The setting revealed one of the big reasons Omaha won the grant. Things are already happening on North 30th, and more are in the works. The announcement took place on the patio of The Venue, an event center surrounded by the new modern-looking apartments, townhouses and business buildings of Highlander.
Highlander is being developed by 75 North Revitalization Corp., a nonprofit backed by Susie Buffett’s Sherwood Foundation and her father, Warren Buffett. Several other local foundations also made pledges to help secure the HUD grant, said Othello Meadows, CEO of 75 North. He said those include the Lozier Foundation, the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation, the Peter Kiewit Foundation and the Daugherty Foundation.
“Most importantly, I want to thank the families in this neighborhood, in this community that trusted us, that met with us at Spencer Homes, who met with us, who meet with us here still, that meet with us on the street, and trust us to try and build a better neighborhood, a better community for them and their families,” Meadows said.
That’s no small feat, he said, given the neighborhood’s history, including the construction of the nearby North Freeway, which “devastated a lot of that trust.”
Gray said the grant will “make a significant difference in our community.” He too acknowledged skepticism and a long history of disappointment in the area but expressed optimism.
“This is one of the depressed areas in our community that has been struggling for a very long time to come from under the grasp of poverty and other things,” said Gray, whose district includes the area. “And this is an opportunity to make that happen. ... This is an opportunity for people in our community who have suffered for a very long time to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train coming at them.”
The City of Omaha and the Omaha Housing Authority applied for the funding from HUD. The city and housing authority will partner with 75 North and Brinshore Development, a national company whose past projects include redeveloping Chicago’s notorious Henry Horner Homes public housing project.
The money will help build more than 400 apartments, townhouses and homes, according to the city’s grant application.
It will boost the completion of Highlander. It will help connect the new developments and existing neighborhoods with such places as Howard Kennedy Elementary School, the Omaha Early Learning Center at Kennedy, the Charles Drew Health Center and the Highlander Accelerator Building.
It remains to be determined exactly what will be built first and when. But it’s a five-year grant, said David Brin, a principal at Brinshore Development. So it has to be completed in five years.
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It was about 15 years ago that seeds were planted for an iconic western gateway to Omaha. City officials at the time were preparing a master plan for developing suburbia. Now the seeds have sprouted. Between the Avenue One project and the office parks planned by R&R Realty, an area about four times the size of Aksarben Village is to be transformed at 192nd Street and West Dodge Road. Read more
A former one-story furniture store that has been vacant for several years is to stretch up and out as J. Development plans to integrate a new five-story apartment building into the existing property. When done, the $17.8 million project at 119 N. 72nd St. will contain indoor parking, community and fitness rooms and 158 market-rate apartments ranging in rent from $800 to $1,100. Read more
The long-awaited Dundee Flats (shown above) at 49th and Dodge Streets is finished, and its development team, Sage Capital, is now planning its next apartment project in another “emerging” pocket of the city. That future apartment property in the Benson area is to be called the Mill, a nod to its past as a grain mill, and would become home to 95 market-rate units. Read more
The Centerline apartment complex, a J. Development project on the 72nd Street corridor north of Spring Street, is open for business. Nearly 80 of the 162 units, at 7007 Oak St., are ready and other floors are opening in phases through November. Read more
A batch of 12 newly constructed single-family homes — selling for upward of $300,000 and featuring rooftop decks and garages — is poised to open along the corridor next spring. Milestone Development’s $3.6 million Courtyard on Park Townhomes project stands out on that re-energized stretch between about Harney Street and Woolworth Avenue in that it’s new construction targeting homeowners rather than renters. Read more
In June, John Schmidt unveiled a $5.5 million makeover of the Florentine, a historic stone apartment building west of downtown Omaha at 907 S. 25th St. It's a project 30 years in the making. Read more
Armed with a fresh CEO and more innovations in the pipeline, Valmont Industries is moving its headquarters to a 6-acre piece of the Heartwood redevelopment. Some people foresee the redevelopment, near 150th Street and West Dodge Road, as the new downtown of west Omaha. Read more
It's out with the old — that is, a 1970s-era storage structure at 14th and Howard — and in with a newly constructed bar and restaurant topped with an outdoor deck. Next door, at 1410 Howard St., a separate brick building erected in 1905 is to be restored and turned into retail and office space. Read more
There was plan after plan to renovate the Logan Hotel, a historic building at 18th and Dodge Streets. A local architectural firm worked 15 years to see the structure survive.
People familiar with downtown real estate trends expect retailers — including specialty clothing, novelty shops, service retailers and even a grocery store — to increasingly fill north downtown gaps as more apartment dwellers come to the area and daytime workforces multiply. At the moment, vintage home décor store Prairies in Bloom is rather lonely at 17th and Cuming Streets. READ MORE
A 500-acre tract touted as a future mecca of office, housing and entertainment for west Omaha has a new name — and is gearing up to play a big role for a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate. READ MORE
Newcomers are changing the face of 13th Street as Donut Stop closes and a new, hip joint moves in. READ MORE
A midtown Omaha hotel property that in recent years can’t seem to stick with an identity now has a new owner and is poised to become a Four Points by Sheraton. READ MORE
A South Omaha industrial site is poised to see new and big activity as the future headquarters of Elliott Equipment Co. READ MORE.
A $300 million redevelopment project named Millwork Commons is expected to bring new life and business back to an old industrial tract of north downtown Omaha. READ MORE
A hotel-condo project, a retail center and an apartment complex are among developments helping to fill gaps along or just off of Omaha's busy West Dodge thoroughfare. READ MORE.
A downtown building constructed in 1923 that once housed a cigar shop is to be restored in a $2.38 million project. READ MORE
A local development team has been quietly assembling property to make way for a new retail and housing district on a sleepy southwest fringe of downtown Omaha. But the build-out of that proposed mixed-use Flatiron District is “on pause” given uncertainty over what might rise on a nearby block that Douglas County has targeted for a youth detention facility. READ MORE.
Former Creighton University-turned-NBA baller Anthony Tolliver is bouncing back into town with a planned 150-unit apartment complex near Elkhorn. READ MORE.
A tavern in the form of a tiny house is preparing to open on 13th Street south of downtown Omaha. Called the Tiny House, the bar at 1411 S. 13th St. is being launched by a group including the real estate duo leading the broader effort to revive that section of Little Bohemia. READ MORE.
A hotel, a sports bar and bunches of other retailers soon will start filling out a corner of the Antler View mixed-use development near 192nd Street and West Maple Road. READ MORE
A trendy row house project is to sprout south of downtown Omaha where a family’s flower shop and greenhouse operation once stood. READ MORE
Picking up a development plan that was in place when Security National Bank started building its headquarters in 1999, SNB leaders are planning a new building at One Pacific Place. READ MORE
A $22.2 million housing development called the Bos is going up in the Morton Meadows neighborhood. 158 dwellings are planned for the 2.6-acre site near Saddle Creek Road and Pacific Street. READ MORE
The number of hotel rooms in the Omaha area has jumped about 16 percent in the past five years — higher than the 7 percent increase for the United States over the same period. READ MORE
As once happened for Florence, Benson, Irvington and a handful of other small towns, the buffer between Omaha and Bennington is disappearing. Families are flocking to the outskirts of town, building homes in brand new neighborhoods with brand new schools in the Bennington school district. READ MORE
Loft apartments and rehabbed commercial bays are poised to pop up along Omaha’s historic Auto Row — a stretch once bustling with showrooms of Studebakers, Hudsons and other classic cars. READ MORE
The midtown Omaha campus of the Atlas stands out not only for sheer size, but also its $108 million conversion from a sterile hospital. A mix of retail and residential residents have already started moving in. READ MORE
Sweeping change in Omaha's Little Italy area has neighbors banding together to make sure they have a say in future development. READ MORE.
After Eppley Airfield recorded its busiest month ever in May, airport officials are beginning the next stage of planning for future renovations and expansion. READ MORE
The century-old Blackstone Hotel, most recently used as an office building in midtown Omaha, is poised to be resurrected to its original use under a nearly $75 million plan by two Omaha developers. READ MORE
The Douglas County Board will consider using eminent domain to acquire a property near 18th and Howard Streets for its proposed $120 million juvenile justice center. Read more
The 130-year-old St. Agnes Catholic Church and related buildings appear headed for the same fate as a few other Omaha parishes in the past few years: The campus at 23rd and Q Streets has been sold to a developer who expects to replace it with rental housing. READ MORE.
A familiar Old Market warehouse — the 133-year-old Woolworth building — is now 44 residences. The homes were carved out of the top three floors of the five-story structure on the northeast corner of 12th and Howard Streets. READ MORE.
All Makes Office Equipment witnesses a revival of Omaha's Farnam Street corridor. READ MORE.
A $13 million headquarters for OCI is set to rise northeast of 204th Street and West Maple Road. READ MORE.
A growing Omaha-based Baxter Auto Group is revving up with a new corporate headquarters to be built northwest of 168th Street and West Dodge Road, near three dealership structures the company currently has under construction. READ MORE.
Several projects in the works could bring bustle back to Omaha's 16th Street corridor. READ MORE.
A company that builds senior living communities has staked out an 8-acre spot on Omaha’s sprawling West Farm development. The Avamere Family of Companies, based in the Portland, Oregon, area plans an $84 million project featuring a pair of upscale residential structures with independent senior living, assisted living and memory care units spanning 325,000 square feet. READ MORE.
The former Creighton University Medical Center is becoming the state's largest single structure of market-rate apartments, near 30th and Cuming. READ MORE.
Officials continue to move closer to developing Lot B, an 8-acre piece of downtown real estate near the CenturyLink Center. Plans calls for a $125 million mixed-use development with restaurants, stores, apartments, open spaces and possibly another hotel. READ MORE.
NuStyle Development is poised to convert another downtown Omaha building into housing — replacing much of the Wells Fargo Bank center at 1919 Douglas St. with about 200 apartments and indoor parking. READ MORE.
The 30 Metro residential and retail complex brings a five-story, $20 million investment to North 30th and Fort Streets. The building includes 110 apartments, 12,000 square feet of commercial bays — and the Icona, a sculpture that stands near the entrance to the 113,000-square-foot complex. READ MORE.
The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska plans to move its health clinic and administrative offices from South Omaha to the vacant former Infogroup headquarters campus near 84th and Q Streets. READ MORE.
Omaha's Intercultural Senior Center is building a 22,000-square-foot facility at 5545 Center St. Construction on the $6.2 million project is expected to be done by 2019. READ MORE.
Alvine Engineering is settling into a new home at 12th and Cass Streets, about four blocks north of the 127-year-old digs it had been in for three decades. The facility marks the first corporate headquarters to be constructed in that downtown area since 2013 when a $44 million, 130,500-square-foot facility at 13th Street and Capitol Avenue was built for grain-trader Gavilon. READ MORE.
Omaha’s movers and shakers, with more than half the funds pledged privately, are forging ahead with a $290 million proposal to breathe new life into the city’s downtown riverfront. A conceptual master plan calls for adding spacious lawns for events, a Farnam Street walking promenade that stretches past Eighth Street to the river, a ribbon-shaped rink for ice skating and rollerblading, a water plaza where kids can play and splash, and a dog park. READ MORE.
The Rohwer family is one of the last farm families on 204th Street, one of the final few trying to straddle the fuzzy line between this area’s rural past and suburban present. "My life is farming," said Alan Rohwer. "My life is this land." READ MORE.
Omaha-based Metonic Real Estate Solutions helped refine a project it thinks will target an unmet demand in the west Omaha area. Ravello 192, as it’s called, is planned as a sprawling 11-building town house development offering private entrances and garages for each of the 118 rental residences. READ MORE.
Rising southeast of 10th Street and Capitol Avenue is a six-story mostly residential structure with ground-floor commercial bays. Capitol Place, as the $27 million project is called, is the dream of two former city officials who are shedding a suburban lifestyle to help build Omaha’s downtown central business district. READ MORE.
Two heavy-hitter youth athletic organizations are teaming up to help build a $10 million Elkhorn facility set to sprawl across 135,000 square feet and host up to 400,000 visitors a year. READ MORE.
The century-old farm at 162nd and Fort Streets, which has evolved into mostly rental space for a landscaper, car fanciers and storage-seekers, is at risk. Omaha officials want the operations shut down, citing concerns with permits, zoning, life safety. READ MORE.
Urban Village Development is set to build 167 apartments on the site of the former Grace University administration and dorm structure at 1311 S. 9th St. READ MORE.