Douglas County may use eminent domain to acquire building for juvenile justice center (copy)

The Douglas County Board is considering demolishing this building at 420 S. 18th St. to make way for a new justice center.

The Omaha Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission voted Wednesday to recommend approval of local landmark status for a downtown building that the Douglas County Board is considering demolishing to make way for a new justice center.

The commission’s vote doesn’t mean the building at 420 S. 18th St. can’t be torn down. It’s only a recommendation, which would still have to go through the Omaha Planning Board before the Omaha City Council ultimately decides whether to declare the building a landmark. It appears unlikely that the process could take place before the county acquires the property through eminent domain.

But owner Bob Perrin said he hopes the commission’s vote will encourage the County Board to change its mind about pursuing eminent domain proceedings.

“We’re hoping for them to change their minds and not acquire it,” Perrin said. “They simply didn’t realize what they were doing when they did this.”

Perrin said he hopes the commission action will convince county officials and the public that the building has historical value. He said he always thought it had such value but never pursued a designation because it didn’t need protection with him as the owner.

“Hopefully this lets our community know that it’s an historic building,” Perrin said. “Now we have a group of people who say yes, it is historic.”

The commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the City Council declare the building a local landmark. The commission is an appointed city board that reviews and makes recommendations on matters pertaining to buildings and districts with potential historic status.

Brian Whetstone of Restoration Exchange Omaha contended that the building qualified for the designation on the grounds of historical and cultural importance. It was one of Omaha’s early automobile dealerships on one of the city’s secondary “automobile rows,” in a district once “teeming with automobile sales buildings, warehouses, and filling stations,” says the application prepared by Whetstone and Matthew Pelz. The building housed car sales businesses from its construction in 1920 until 1948.

From 1948 through 1967, Whetstone told the commission, the Army Corps of Engineers used the building for important concrete, soil and other testing that was part of a historic effort to control the Missouri River and prevent flooding.

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.