Will North Omaha thrive again?

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December 17th, 2010

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Omaha, NE – In an effort to revive targeted poverty areas in Omaha, the North Omaha Historical Grant Committee announced the distribution of thousands of dollars for programs wanting to restore the area. And, earlier this week, at a public meeting they announced which groups received the green light.

This is the third year for the so-called “turn back tax”. Introduced in the Legislature, it’s a provision that allows sales tax revenue generated from the Qwest Center to be directed at areas in Omaha with high levels of poverty. Chris Rodgers with the Douglas County Board of Commissioners is a member on the North Omaha historical grant committee. In September, when the grant applications were first being distributed, Rodgers said funding for violence prevention and youth intervention programs wouldn’t be the group’s priority. Instead, he said the focus is on building a historical and cultural community with a tourism appeal.

“We think this is a very important effort, the legislature put into place. We’re just trying to be good stewards of that and make sure that its original intent is there. And, hopefully leave something long-lasting in the community that can be a benefit for years to come.”

Rodgers said, however, after the historical programs were funded, they were also able to fund some youth intervention programs with leftover funds. The John Beasley Theater received one of the grants, for $15,000 this year. John Beasley, a native of North Omaha said he remembers when north Omaha was very viable, lined with clothing stores, drug stores, night clubs, and filled with working minority professionals. Beasley said he doesn’t think the glory days will return because he said as long as there are no jobs, crime will continue. But, he hopes the possible relocation of the theater into North Omaha, becomes an anchor for revitalization of the area.

“I think by placing a theater over there, it will open up opportunity for people that are still in the area. I foresee that we’ll bring at least 27 new jobs in the area.”

South Omaha has also awarded their “turn back tax” grants this week, with 21 applications submitted and 16 approved for funding.

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