contentsGreater Omaha NE Chamberads

Historic Communities

A unique partnership linking neighborhood associations, businesses, public and private institutions, Omaha city government and the Greater Omaha Chamber, Destination Midtown is an unprecedented collaborative community development effort working to raise the quality of life and return Midtown to prominence.

Destination Midtown

Unprecedented collaborative community development effort dedicated to raising the quality of life and returning Midtown Omaha to prominence.

Steadfast dedication and broad ambition. They are the hallmarks of Destination Midtown, a public-private partnership celebrating five years of advocacy and education, of creating connections and promoting Midtown. Since 2005, Destination Midtown, in collaboration with its partners, has announced more than 120 projects in excess of $650 million. These new businesses, expansions and renovations have produced over 1,000 jobs.

“The momentum is there in Midtown Omaha. We see it in the $325 million Midtown Crossing at Turner Park development and the growth and expansion of the University of Nebraska Medical Center/The Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University and Creighton University Medical Center campuses. We’re thrilled with the progress we’ve seen so far, but we know there is still a lot of work ahead of us,“ said Gary Peterson, chairman of the Destination Midtown board.

Whether it involves a new art studio or mom-and-pop restaurant, streetscape improvements or renovated places of worship, private and public investment and grassroots community building are having a dramatic impact, revitalizing Midtown Omaha, making it a better place to live, work and play.

This year, the partnership is overseeing commercial district revitalization plans for three of Midtown’s business nodes. In each of the districts, the planning process is rooted in “getting community input on what they want the commercial nerve center of their own neighborhood to be,“ said Jamie Grayson-Berglund, Destination Midtown’s executive director.

Commercial district revitalization is a crucial prong of Destination Midtown’s four-part strategy to improve Midtown’s local economy. The strategy also focuses on balanced transportation and mixed-used development, employer needs and workforce development and quality housing development.

“Destination Midtown is a great example of how a public-private partnership can change a community,“ said Grayson-Berglund.

A Symbol of REVIVAL

There is no grander symbol of Midtown Omaha’s budding revival than Midtown Crossing at Turner Park—a $325 million mixed-use development encompassing more than one million square feet of new space. At the center of it all is an expanded and revitalized Turner Park, a space that blossomed last summer with a series of outdoor markets, concerts and community-wide events.

“We see great energy here,“ said Molly Skold, Midtown Crossing’s marketing director.

Mutual of Omaha provided the land for the project and brought its vision to master developer ECI Investment Advisors.

“This brings new life to this sector,“ said Skold. “It revitalizes not only the physical structure but also the enthusiasm about Midtown.“

Midtown Crossing’s Prairie Life Fitness Center and Midtown Cinema-Omaha were the first to open, others that have opened or plan to open include Tru Salon and Spa and a slate of restaurants/bars, including Loft 610, Parliament Pub and Cantina Laredo. Omaha mainstay Delice European Bakery and Café has a place at Midtown Crossing, as does longtime Omaha grocer Wohlner’s. Its 16,200-square-foot Midtown Market and Deli is situated on the first floor of an Element Hotel by Westin. The hotel, which will be 100 percent LEED certified, opened in November.

North Omaha Development Project

A commitment of the Greater Omaha Chamber, African American business leaders, the North Omaha community, corporate leaders and elected officials to encourage significant business investments in North Omaha.

Pick your sector: finance, commerce, education, healthcare... North Omaha is experiencing significant investment in all four areas, contributing to a burgeoning community.

The North Omaha Development Project (NODP) heralded the opening of three financial institutions on Ames Avenue last summer: a 5,000-square-foot First National Bank branch, a SAC Federal Credit Union and a Centris Federal Credit Union. These strengthen the North Omaha financial corridor by adding to the existing institutions already on Ames Avenue, including Wells Fargo Bank, American National Bank and Bank of the West.

“These facilities bring new jobs and state-of-the-art banking facilities to North Omaha,“ said Ed Cochran, NODP’s executive director. “They also show the willingness of business to invest in North Omaha.“

Further strengthening North Omaha’s economic core is a new Urban Entrepreneur Partnership with the Ewing Kauffman Foundation headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. “While still in the early stages of development, we hope the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership will encourage entrepreneurship in our community by providing business training and coaching and by better preparing organizations to access financing,“ said Cochran.

Grand openings are becoming frequent celebrations in North Omaha—from Metropolitan Community College’s $16 million Institute for the Culinary Arts to Signs & Shapes International’s global headquarters to Omaha North High Magnet School’s Engineering and Science Building. The Charles Drew Health Center is also enjoying campus upgrades, including a new health and fitness center and extra parking and green space. Before long, Davis Business Ventures and Bluestone Development will debut their addition to the landscape—Omaha Vision Unlimited I, a $5 million, four-story, mixed-use building.

Investments are also being made in the community’s human capital. The Omaha Workforce Collaborative continued its trend of targeted employee training programs, partnering with The Nebraska Medical Center and First National Bank of Omaha.

Momentum is on the side of North Omaha and NODP, and the accolades continue to roll in. Just last year, the Nebraska Chapter of the American Planning Association awarded the partnership the outstanding planning award for best practices.

OUTWARD BOUND: High Ropes, High Hopes

One of the newest additions to the North Omaha landscape isn’t a building; it’s a builder—a character builder made of utility poles and suspended cables. Last spring, Omaha’s NorthStar Foundation, in partnership with Outward Bound, erected an intricate high ropes course on the North Omaha campus of the Omaha Home for Boys. Outward Bound, America’s leading provider of learning expeditions, began running pilot programs on the course in June. A $300,000 teaching tool, the structure is designed to encourage personal development, leadership and team building.

“All courses for Outward Bound are not run on the high ropes course, but it’s a piece that fits into the larger curriculum. Elements that are available on the high ropes course allow us to introduce these concepts to people who may never have had an Outward Bound experience and to do it in the heart of the community we seek to serve,“ said Scott Hazelrigg, president of the NorthStar Foundation.

The Foundation’s key mission is providing before- and after-school programming to male youth in North Omaha. A needs and opportunities assessment, spearheaded by NorthStar and conducted with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, made a clear case for why Outward Bound should locate a center in Omaha. In September 2009, just two months after receiving the assessment, Outward Bound committed to coming here.

For its part, NorthStar provides operational funding and infrastructure. Outward Bound is in charge of programming, which, in addition to the high ropes experiences, could eventually include week-long wilderness expeditions and urban expeditions. Outward Bound is open to all Omahans—particularly youth—through area schools, youth-serving agencies and workforce development efforts.

South Omaha Development Project

A commitment of the Greater Omaha Chamber, public and private institutions, business leaders, the South Omaha community and elected officials to implement a strategy that would result in significant increased business investments in South Omaha.

South Omaha is defined by its vibrant culture and rich history. Now, the community is rallying around the promise of a re-energized future, stoked by the leadership of the South Omaha Development Project (SODP)—the Chamber’s newest, multi-partner community development effort.

The Salvation Army provided an initial blast of revitalizing momentum last year with the building of a $30 million Kroc Community Center. South Omaha also has its corps of landmark attractions, including Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanical Center.

The mission of SODP is to build on the positive while addressing deficiencies in key areas including housing, economic and workforce development and transportation. Community input has been critical in developing an ambitious, 20-year master plan. Lead consultant HDR, Inc. produced the document, culling from public meetings, focus groups, an intensive design planning session and a massive, bilingual survey. It reached 6,000 South Omaha residents; almost 1,500 people responded. “It is unprecedented to have this much community involvement, said Karen Mavropoulos, SODP’s project coordinator.

As the focus turns to long-term implementation, SODP will rely, organizationally, on two entities: a funding council of investors and a 12-member project implementation board.

THE KROC CENTER: Transforming Lives and the Community

Opening doors to opportunity, The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in historic South Omaha is a catalyst for fun, fellowship and learning. In keeping with the mission of The Salvation Army, the Kroc Center welcomes people with a state-of-the-art facility, programs and activities that encourage life-changing experiences

“The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is much more than a health club or wellness center,“ said Major Todd A. Thielke, senior Kroc Center officer. “Our 122,000-square-foot, multi-faceted facility also provides education, recreation, cultural, arts and fellowship opportunities. It is the place where individuals and families feel welcome and supported in physical, emotional and spiritual development.“

Kroc Center memberships are offered at reasonable rates so everyone can benefit. In addition, the Kroc Center rents space for casual to formal gatherings. The facility is a popular place for business meetings, local and regional special events and even provides custom catering with delicious menus designed by the in-house executive chef.

The Omaha Kroc Center facility offers:

• Expansive aquatics center with a six-lane competition pool and a recreation pool featuring a lazy stream and water slide.
• Massive fitness center with advanced equipment, a variety of classes and expert trainers.
• Gymnasium complex with three full-size basketball courts and bleacher seating.
• The Joyce Mammel Assembly Hall with 525 seats and excellent acoustics.
• Eight 50-seat classrooms in the Suzanne and Walter Scott Education Center for education, performing arts and visual arts classes.
• Fifty computers in the Dr. Stanley and Dorothy Truhlsen Learning Center.
• 400-seat fellowship hall and the Ricketts Family Chapel.
• Outdoor sports field complex and festival plaza with approximately 390,000 square feet of green space.

Omaha is home to one of the first Kroc Centers nationwide, all of which were made possible by a generous gift of $1.5 billion from the estate of the late Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Eventually, 20-25 centers will be located across the country. Joan Kroc’s $60 million gift for the Omaha Kroc Center was evenly divided between construction and an operating endowment. The Salvation Army engaged Heritage Services to raise another $15 million for endowment funding.

Major Thielke noted that the late Joan Kroc was once quoted as saying, “We can help bring our city together by declaring our love to all of its children and showing them the faith we have in their future.“ He added, “At the Omaha Kroc Center, we remind ourselves daily that every life touched helps make this vision a reality.“

The United Football League Omaha Nighthawks have found a home at the Kroc Center. For at least the next two seasons, the facility will be used for training camps and practices. Hosting the team at the Kroc Center will give kids a chance to interact with positive role models.

previous topic
next topic
Town Square Publications