$500 Million in Development Underway in North Omaha
North Omaha is finally attracting large scale private/public initiatives and projects. Because the developments and revitalization are not all centered in one location like Aksarben Village or Destination Midtown, the collective investment is not as noticeable.
Two of the driving forces and catalysts in securing new investments and bringing more attention to the physical redevelopment needs of the area were the North Omaha Development Plan (NODP) and the North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan (NOVRP).
The NODP was led by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and identified areas with the greatest potential for development. It was successful in increasing awareness about the economic benefits of redeveloping North Omaha and helping to bring several projects to fruition, including: the First National Bank on Ames and financial corridor; Aldi Store on Sorenson; Culinary Arts Institute to the Fort Omaha Campus; and, working with elected officials and the Workforce Board to locate Heartland Workforce Solutions on Ames Avenue.
Then, after nearly three years of input and planning 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.
The development of the Village 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, Sherwood 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.
Four years later, all of the areas are receiving 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 Village Marketplace 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 Village Marketplace. The development will include a healthy neighborhood food store, restoration of the Fair Deal Café, and offer innovative container stores for small entrepreneurs. New plans for the Blue Lion Center are also on the drawing board.
These plans were built on work from previous city plans including the work of retired City of Omaha Economic Development Manager, Ken Johnson. Who was a major player for over two decades in the Planning Department, bringing much needed attention and development to North Omaha. Johnson was instrumental in the large scale mixed-used developments along 72nd Street, Ames and Sorenson and numerous other projects vital to North Omaha. He continues to play key roles in significant revitalization projects.
Terrie Jackson-Miller was another central figure in keeping North Omaha development needs and priorities in front of decision makers. Jackson-Miller focused on Minority Business Development at the Chamber of Commerce. After her retirement, she became the first Executive Director for North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance and has since continued sharing her experience with the next generation as an adjunct professor at UNO and MCC.
At the 24th and Cuming/Hamilton area, Omaha Economic Development Corporation built the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties’ new North Omaha Learning Center in 2014. The $4.9 million building houses 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
And, after working with the Empowerment Network and many partners to gain community input and feedback, CHI Health and Creighton University have embarked on the building of a $35 million health center on the northwest corner of 24th and Cuming.
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 total investment is projected to exceed $100 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. 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. When completed the investment will be in excess of $30 million.
The White Lotus Group, led by Arun Agarwal is bringing more private development into the North Omaha area. His business is in the process of building a $30 million dollar mixed used project on the site of the former Mr. C’s restaurant, 30 Metropolitan Place. White Lotus also recently announced a $50 million mixed-income housing, mixed-used development near 56th and Sorenson. Agarwal and his team are also investing in the restoration of historic buildings, including the Webster Telephone Exchange Building at 24th and Lake and the J.F Bloom Building on Cuming Street.
Metropolitan Community College has broken ground on its $90 million expansion on the Fort Omaha Campus in North Omaha. 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.
Other organizations, including the City of Omaha, Habitat for Humanity, Holy Name Housing and others are actively working on infill housing strategies. Please see the Housing and Revitalization article on page 46.
The progress in North Omaha would not have been possible without the direct involvement and engagement of residents, neighborhood association leaders, pastors and faith leaders, community-based organizations and youth. Participation in meetings and important sessions attracted the interest and coincided with large investments made by major foundations including Sherwood, Weitz, Lozier, Holland, Kiewit and others. The investments from philanthropic organizations and public entities, followed by the preliminary private investors, are having a positive and measurable impact on North Omaha. Add in the other developments outlined in this guide and the total exceeds $500 million!
There is much work ahead and significant, sustained investments are needed to fully reverse the decades of neglect of the physical infrastructure and revitalization needs of North Omaha. As the community builds on the momentum and actively takes part in the development through employment, contracting, entrepreneurship and mixed-income housing, opportunities to build wealth and community ownership are increasing at a steady pace. Building on its rich history and resiliency, North Omaha stands at the doorstep of a truly promising and thriving future.