Omaha Council Approves More Midtown Row Housing


June 15th, 2016


The Omaha City Council meets on Tuesday’s at 2pm in the Omaha Legislative Chambers. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News

Omaha City Council Members approve building 30 units of row housing, despite neighbors’ objections.

For the second week in a row, Omaha City Council President Ben Gray was not at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled weekly meeting. He was out of town. So was Mayor Jean Stothert. So Council Vice President Chris Jerram had the interesting distinction of being both the acting Mayor and Council President.

He also gave the meeting’s invocation, which was about Sunday morning’s terrorist attack in Orlando.

“The fact is, no community is immune from these things. Our community went through the Von Maur shooting,” Jerram said. “Our hearts, minds, and prayers go out to the victims of the Orlando incident, their families and loved ones, the first responders at the scene, hospital staff-physicians, nurses–everyone there.”

After the invocation, but before taking up the agenda, Councilman Franklin Thompson read a proclamation in regards to Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in America.

“This annual celebration marks the day when a quarter million slaves in Texas first learned of their freedom on June 19th, 1865,” Franklin said, reading from the proclamation. “Now, therefore we, the City Council of the City of Omaha, do hereby declare the week of June 11th through the 19th, 2016, as Juneteenth Week.”

Once the Council dove into the agenda, the day was dominated by talks of construction projects, both current and future.

If approved, a series of resolutions on Tuesday’s agenda would green-light the construction of 30 units of row housing on several empty lots near the intersection of 33rd and Mason Streets, in Midtown.

The project is divided into two parts, referred to as Mason North, and Mason South. Each unit is expected to sell for around $250,000, according to the developer Uptown Urban Dwellings.

But Di Farho, who lives a few doors down from the proposed site, told the Council she is against any project which changes the neighborhood’s current atmosphere.

“Gentrification happening right before our eyes,” Farho said. “[Developers are] not putting in stores. No infrastructure.  There [are] tattoo parlors, there’s Mexican grocery stores. Family Dollar is the food store everyone is going to go to for their big urban development. What [Uptown Urban Dwellings] has planned does not belong on those two corners of that street.”

Steve Kenney, another opponent of the project, told Council members adding 30 units of row housing will make parking even worse in the area.

“With this kind of unit, you’re going to get younger people in here,” Kenney said, “and they’re going to have parties. Where are those people going to park? It’s silly to think that that’s not going to happen.”

Charles Yuen was at Tuesday’s meeting for an unrelated issue, but felt compelled to speak out in support of the project.

“I built a house on 11th and Briggs. Large modern home; we’ve invested a pretty good amount of money in it, and they’re building 36 townhomes right next to us,” Yuen said. “I welcome it. It’s a sign the neighborhood is revitalizing, it’s a sign of someone willing to invest money to help Omaha grow.”

The Council agreed with Yuen, and unanimously gave their approval on the Mason North and Mason South developments.

From there, the Council approved several re-zonings and resolutions to build other housing and mixed use developments around the City, but voted to layover an ordinance that would have allowed construction of a new Dragon Storage facility at 180th and Harrison Streets.

The Council did approve moving forward on creating a tax increment financing—or TIF– plan to rehabilitate three commercial structures along 13th Street, in the area known as Little Bohemia.

Councilman Gary Gernandt called the 13th Street a major corridor.

“This is long over-due on 13th street,” Gernandt said. “We’re worried about building up the Central Business Corridor—it’s booming. [But] we still need something to pull them off of I-80 going east bound or west bound so they can head to that. I hope this is a catalyst to keep moving southbound on 13th Street.”

The Council also approved a resolution creating a TIF redevelopment plan to build a mixed-used, 5- story structure at 12th and Cass Streets, downtown. The plan calls for office space, 45 market rate multi-family apartments, onsite parking, and retail space.

Bridget Hadley with the City Planning Department told the Council the project represents another $13 million of investment, and will create more than 120 jobs.

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