Revitalizating South Omaha

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June 17th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – In South Omaha, back in the early 1900s, the Union Stock Yard’s meat packing industry boosted economic growth in the area, which became known as “The Magic City.” But, in the late 1990s, when the plants finally closed, the community lost some of that magic. Now, the South Omaha Development Project hopes to change the luck in the area.

The historic Livestock Exchange building in South Omaha was once a hub of commercial and industrial activity. (Photo courtesy Omaha Chamber of Commerce)

South Omaha was once a thriving community with blue-collar jobs in the packing industry, small-business owners, and a strong sense of community. But, when the packing plants closed and moved out of the area, economic growth in much of the neighborhood declined. Though some of the bustle has been revived on South 24th Street, that development does not extend far beyond its central hub.

The South Omaha Development project, a community development initiative of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, recently outlined future plans that address some of the community concerns. Project Coordinator Karen Mavropoulos said in 2009, through surveys, focus groups, and interviews, SODP gathered information from about 2000 South Omaha residents and created a master plan.

An artist's rendering of planned developments in South Omaha (Photo courtesy Omaha Chamber of Commerce)

“We’re just at the starting phase,” she said. “Things are starting to shape up, so hopefully within the next year, things will start showing up.”

The master plan identifies a number of different projects, including the revitalization of Vinton Street, a commercial area in the heart of South Omaha that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The plan also includes expanding the availability of affordable housing, improving transportation, and developing commercial and industrial areas to boost job creation.

“One of the big challenges in South Omaha is that there isn’t a lot of land available for development,” Mavropolous said. “Whatever little bit of land for industrial purposes that is available we need to protect it as such, because that is the source of jobs for the future when an employer locates to one of these areas.”

Mavropolous said by the end of June, SODP will start work on the Vinton Street project. She added because the project is in very early stages, no specific price has been tagged on the master plan. But, some investments have already been made including the $30 million Salvation Army Kroc Center, which opened in 2009.

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