After decades of “neglect and disinvestment” as described by residents, community leaders, business executives and elected officials, North Omaha is rising again. While most of the investments in North Omaha have been on the social side, more foundations, elected officials and community leaders are putting increased focus on affordable housing, mixed-income and mixed-used developments, and neighborhood revitalization.
Home ownership has always been one of the most important keys to building wealth in communities. Urban communities have suffered because of stagnant home values caused by overall poor living conditions, redlining, low performing schools and real and perceived violence. This combined with the flight of middle and upper income families generates a marketplace where new mixed-income housing and market rate housing tends not to occur. In order to attract new businesses and shopping opportunities for residents, diversified housing and mixed income neighborhoods are critically important aspects.
Developed under the leadership of Michael Maroney, the Miami Heights sub-division was an early effort to bring market rate housing back to North Omaha. It is a beautiful development in the heart of North Omaha featuring some of the most amazing views in the entire city. Homes range from $200,000 to $400,000 and have attracted residents who wanted to stay in North Omaha and enjoy a new home.
The City of Omaha has fueled much of the housing growth in North Omaha, especially of affordable housing. Due to the partnerships with local non-profits, Holy Name Housing, Habitat for Humanity, Omaha Economic Development Corporation and others, dozens of neighborhoods have experienced increases in new home availability.
Holy Name Housing, under the leadership of recently retired executive director, Sister Marilyn Ross, has built or helped rehab 700 housing units. Numerous neighborhoods in North Omaha have been dramatically transformed with quality new homes, cottages and senior living spaces. Sister Ross leaves a legacy of commitment to holistic community development and families who have experienced home ownership for the very first time. Some of her most notable developments include Monmouth Park, refurbished Leo Vaughan Manor, Prospect Village, and the $29 million St. Richards Campus development in partnership with Heartland Family Service.
Habitat for Humanity has established itself as a major player in the redevelopment of housing in North Omaha. With a focus on increasing home ownership and replacing old dilapidated housing, Habitat and CEO Amanda Brewer work to help rebuild neighborhoods one home or, in some cases, one block at a time. Hundreds of diverse families have moved into home ownership with the support of Habitat.
Michael Maroney, first with his own non-profit New Community Development Corporation and now with Omaha Economic Development Corporation, has played a leadership role in the revitalization of key areas in North Omaha. With New Community Development Corporation, Maroney worked to help build Miami Heights, Concorde Square, Salem Village and Grace Plaza. Then, after joining OEDC, the organization has successfully completed the restoration of the Margaret Apartments on 16th Street, Fair Deal Senior Village and single family homes near 25th and Burdette. The Margaret Apartments won state wide recognition for its groundbreaking use of geo-thermal energy and solar panels to reduce energy costs for residents. Maroney has led the development of over 500 housing units in North Omaha.
GESU Housing led by Jesuit Brother Mike Wilmot, has intentionally focused on block by block housing development. Their innovative efforts have helped to stabilize several neighborhoods with solid, sustainable homes. While primarily working through other non-profits, the City of Omaha has taken a leadership role in developing townhomes along North 24th Street, infill developments near 45th and Lake, and larger scale housing efforts near 16th Street, 20th Street and 25th Street between Burdette and Cuming Streets.
Churches have also engaged in helping to rebuild housing, especially senior housing. One of the early developments by a church was J.C. Wade Manor led by Salem Baptist Church. Salem’s involvement continued with the creation of Salem Village I and II in partnership with New Community Development Corporation.
Pilgrim Baptist Church partnered with OEDC to make apartments available to seniors near 24th and Hamilton.
Another faith leader in the area of housing development is Pastor Joseph Shannon of Greater St. Paul Ministries. Working with the City of Omaha, Shannon has led developments, including Shannon Heights, Greenview Estates and Bethesda Homes. Abide Ministries, with Josh, Ron and Twanny Dotzler leading the way, takes a house at a time approach and puts more emphasis on restoration and rehabilitation of homes. The ministry purchases and renovates homes in neighborhoods which have been previously impacted by violence to establish what they refer to as Light Houses.
Another organization which has been on the forefront of the housing and revitalization efforts is Family Housing Advisory Services under the leadership of executive director, Teresa Hunter. FHAS assists by preparing renters to become home owners. The dynamic organization offers valuable training opportunities covering a range of topics including: homelessness prevention; transitioning to home ownership; financial literacy and empowerment; and stabilizing neighborhoods. FHAS also manages Omaha 100, a lending service providing mortgage services for home buyers.
Bob Armstrong, former director of the Omaha Housing Authority, was a trailblazer recognized nationally for his work in the area of housing and revitalization. He instituted groundbreaking efforts to help public housing residents navigate the difficult waters towards self-sufficiency. Armstrong was a man before his time as he introduced innovative training and job placement programs. OEDC, the Empowerment Network and others, with financial support from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority and Sherwood Foundation, facilitated the development of the North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan which was passed unanimously by the Planning Board and Omaha City Council. The communitybased vision and plan focused on four key nodes of opportunity in North Omaha which could become catalyst for redevelopment. Each of these areas now have major developments under way including: Prospect Village, 75 North’s Highlander, Adams Park/Malcolm X, Fair Deal Urban Village at 24th and Lake, CHI Creighton University Medical Center at 24th and Cuming and more. Please see the Progress Update in this guide featuring these projects and other mixed-income and retail developments in North Omaha.