A plan to spend just over $10 million to renovate two blocks of Mission Avenue won an expression of interest Monday night when the Bellevue City Council voted 6-0 to approve a letter of intent.

Mayor Rusty Hike said the letter of intent commits the city to nothing more than conducting serious negotiations with John Jungers and Robert Ryan, two developers who are proposing the renovation.

If approved, 1st City Development, LLC, which Nebraska state records show is jointly partnered by Jungers and Ryan, would demolish the former City Hall building and office buildings to the east between Washington and Franklin streets.

They would be replaced by a grocery store or some business of similar purpose, offices and multi-family residential.

The developers were scheduled to make a detailed presentation before the Bellevue Planning Commission on Feb. 28 but asked they appear at the March 28 session instead.

In other business, council members voted 6-0 to approve taking $75,000 from the city’s Community Betterment Fund to help launch the “Light Up Bellevue” program.

The program is proposed by a citizens committee co-chaired by longtime Olde Towne business owner Dave Compton and Joanna Hike, wife of the mayor.

Mayor Hike is also a member of the organizing committee.

Compton presented videos and a slide show illustrating the scope of the campaign, which he said will involve synchronized lighting infrastructure that can be used to celebrate Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and any other holidays the city might wish to promote.

Compton said the goal is to create a “Wow! factor” with a lighting display that will draw visitors from across the metro area.

The 2019 display will focus on the Bellevue Public Schools’ Lied Activity Center near Fort Crook Road and Highway 370, and a quadrant of Washington Park along Franklin Street in Olde Towne.

Compton said plans call for the lights to be in place by Thanksgiving.

In future years, he said, all of Washington Park will be lit, after which program organizers will turn their attention to Fort Crook Road and the Twin Creek retail development in west Bellevue.

Compton estimated the first-year cost at between $150,000 and $200,000, with funds above the city’s contribution to be raised by community fundraising. The city’s initial contribution of $75,000 is a one-time gift designed to kick start the program, he said, and no further requests will be made.

The money will be taken from the city’s keno-funded Community Betterment Fund.

City Finance Director Rich Severson said he was “cautiously optimistic” the fund could manage the gift, although he warned the fund is severely depleted after council members used more than $2 million to balance the city’s budget.

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.