An Omaha development company plans to redevelop 12 city blocks near Creighton University’s campus.
Noddle Companies proposed a redevelopment plan in an “L” shape northeast of Creighton University’s campus from 22nd and Cuming St. all the way to 24th and Cass St.
This affects several of the small properties located in this area including the businesses Happy Bar, Pettit’s Pastry, Sol’s Jewelry & Loan and Max I. Walker Cleaners & Launderers.
Noddle Companies is partnering with Kiewit Corp., Creighton University, Union Pacific and First National Bank for this project and the Builder’s District would expand this area.
Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Companies, said that each partner would contribute to this plan.
Noddle reported potential plans for each partner. Kiewit would collocate their new global headquarters with Kiewit University. Union Pacific may expand their child development center and child care, and Creighton would move their athletic complexes to the area. First National Bank would help launch adjacent redevelopment projects. The Builder’s District hopes to add an entertainment aspect to this area as well with restaurants, bars and new living spaces.
The Omaha Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve this plan, meaning it will be on the City Council’s slate in the near future.
“It makes sense to collocate here,” Noddle said. “Each partner thought it would be a great idea to collaborate on a plan to bring jobs, living spaces, entertainment and food to the neighborhood. Everyone’s contributing and everyone’s excited.”
Noddle companies is also credited with the development of the newer area of Aksarben Village.
Noddle said that he believes the projected $3 million plan will eventually benefit the northern Omaha area, too.
“For one, we’re bringing the headquarters of a fortune 500 company to this area—that’s over 600 jobs,” Noddle said. “Then, the volume of people there will create demand which creates a magnet for more jobs. The success in this Builder’s District will lead the ring of development to expand outward.”
Currently, Noddle said the company is trying to acquire the properties they do not yet own and working through the typical kinks that come with these projects, such as issues with truck traffic.
Additionally, he said that they are attempting to find a solution for the homeless population who “have a tendency to migrate from the Siena Francis shelter.”
Dr. Matthew Averett, an art history and urban theory professor at Creighton and an Omaha resident, said that he thinks that this plan is “a really good idea.”
“Every time you have private partnerships, individual businesses need to look out for themselves, so they don’t always have the city’s best interests in mind,” Averett said. “But Kiewit has always been a good partner to the city.”
He also believes the plan will greatly benefit Creighton’s campus.
“Cities aren’t just buildings; cities are people,” he said. “We want people out on the streets walking around and interacting. We want that next to Creighton.”
However, Averett stressed the importance of Creighton’s obligation to the residents of this area.
“Creighton has one of the largest, if not the largest, footprint in this city,” he said. “Who do we serve? Who are stakeholders? North Omahans are. If we fail to think about them, that would be a huge downside to this project.”
In Averett’s opinion, the city of Omaha, along with Creighton, needs to consider who could be hurt by urbanization and keep those people in mind to prevent gentrification, while also encouraging the development of young, urban areas that help the community thrive.
While it seems that many should benefit from this plan, there are those who unfortunately will not: the small, local businesses in the projected area.
Happy Bar, a family-owned business 65 years in the running, is in danger of losing their prime location right next to Creighton’s campus for basketball games and right next to TD Ameritrade Park for the College World Series.
John Pascarella, one of the bartenders and owners of Happy Bar, said that the news has been “like a funeral” for his family.
“We’ll never have what we have down here with the customers we’ve built up,” Pascarella said. “It’s like getting hit in the stomach. Our family’s been very emotional.”
Pascarella said that he has worked at this bar since he was 18 years old; this bar is his whole livelihood. Happy Bar has been on 16th and California St. for 50 years.
While they may have the option of relocating, Pascarella says they don’t want to.
“With all the memories we have here, it’s hard to see this place knocked down with no real plan set in stone.”
Pascarella also said he was concerned about language used in his conversations with representatives of the companies.
“Kiewit said that they want to ‘control the neighborhood with their headquarters and dictate what goes on,’” he said. “That was the language they used. There’s no stopping it, so I just hope they do it right.”
According to Pascarella, Noddle companies has set this rough plan for 10 years from now, but they want all the properties gone before 2021, resulting in a short timeline for Happy Bar and the other local businesses.