Progress Update: North Omaha Village Zone Revitalization Plan

After nearly three years of meetings with the community and stakeholders, on July 11, 2011, the North Omaha Village Zone Revitalization Plan was passed unanimously by the Omaha City Council. The vision focused on what was once referred to as the “Near Northside” in North Omaha with the boundaries of 16th Street on the east, 36th on the west, Pratt Street on the north and Cuming Street on the south. Within the plan, four specific “nodes” were identified as key to the revitalization of this core part of North Omaha:

1. 16th and Cuming
2. North 24th Street/24th and Lake
3. 30th and Parker/Lake
4. Malcolm X/Adams Park

NO-Village-ZoneThe development of the Revitalization Plan was facilitated by the Empowerment Network in partnership with Omaha Economic Development Corporation, City of Omaha, Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, Omaha Housing Authority, Family Housing Advisory Services, Holy Name Housing, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, a local foundation and two urban planning consultants, H3 Studio and Schemmer & Associates. The Village Plan builds on previous studies, including the North Omaha Development Plan which also included the areas of 30th and Ames and 30th and Sorenson.

Three years later, all of the areas are experiencing much needed attention and new developments are accelerating. Different organizations are now leading various elements of the plan. 16th and Cuming continues to be driven by the private market. Omaha Economic Development Corporation has helped to lead most of the new plans and development along North 24th Street. The Fair Deal Urban Village initiative was one of the first large scale projects after the approval of the Revitalization Plan. A $12 million development includes a state of the art senior village, single family homes, the Union for Contemporary Art and artist gallery. The next phase will include the cutting edge concept, Fair Deal Plaza. The area will be one of the first in the city to feature “container” stores.

24th and Lake is beginning to see the reemergence of the arts, culture and entertainment district envisioned in the plan. The Love’s Jazz and Art Center is attracting, large, diverse crowds to the district with local and regional jazz, blues and gospel artists. LJAC along with the new Carver Bank/Bemis Center and Union for Contemporary Art are presenting high quality cultural activities on a frequent basis, attracting local residents and tourists. The Empowerment Network in partnership with OEDC and over 80 organizations launched Christmas in the Village which has attracted thousands to the district. Businesses such as the Styles of Evolution, Chi-town Chicken, Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop and Taste of Heaven are also beginning to generate a solid base of customers.

At the 24th and Cuming/Hamilton area, Omaha Economic Development Corporation is building the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties’ new North Omaha Learning Center. The $4.9 building will house one of the nation’s most innovative approaches to high quality early childhood development. Just blocks south, on the corner of 24th and Cuming, OEDC worked with McDonald’s to replace an older building with one of the corporations newest concept stores.

And, after working with the Empowerment Network and many partners to gain community input and feedback, CHI Health and Creighton University recently announced the creation of a $35 million health center on the Northwest corner of 24th and Cuming. The facility will house all of the services prioritized by the community, including a free standing emergency room and physicians in the areas of primary care, women’s health, behavioral health, and wellness.

In the 30th and Parker/Lake Street area, the 75 North Revitalization Corporation, led by Othello Meadows is making progress on the first phase of the Highlander initiative. The plan is to develop a holistic neighborhood, including mixed-income housing, a business accelerator and high quality early childhood education with direct access to high performing elementary schools. The first phase of the plan is estimated at $76 million.

Just to the west of Highlander is the Prospect Village initiative, now led by the City of Omaha and the reemerging neighborhood association. Prospect Village began as an initiative of the Empowerment Network, in partnership with the ABC Housing Initiative which included the Omaha Economic Development Corporation, Family Housing Advisory Services and Holy Name Housing. The group worked directly with the neighborhood associations and churches in the area.

Seven years ago, the neighborhood was experiencing one of the highest rates of violence in the city. The community-based partnership started working with the residents on neighborhood clean-up projects and took a tour with association leaders to identify core issues. Nearly 100 vacant lots were purchased by the ABC Housing Initiative which led to the development of 21 new homes in the area and the eventual city approval of 80 additional homes to be built in the neighborhood. Eventually, the Omaha Housing Authority decided to demolish the Pleasant View Housing Project which cleared the way for the 75 North Revitalization Corporation to be created. The Malcolm X Foundation has developed a new master plan and is moving forward. The City of Omaha has led a process to refine the new vision for Adams Park. Metropolitan Community College has recently announced a $90 million expansion of its Fort Omaha Campus in North Omaha. Other organizations, including the City of Omaha, Habitat for Humanity, Holy Name Housing and others are actively working on infill housing strategies.

Revive! Omaha Magazine will highlight these and other developments in the future.