Chambers Court

A portion of a major Omaha redevelopment project now bears the name of one of Nebraska's most controversial political figures -- Omaha Senator Ernie Chambers.

Crews are renovating a group of historic buildings into affordable apartments at 18th and Blondo, where the Omaha Housing Authority named the courtyard after Chambers.

It's a first for the senator, but not the first time it's been considered.

A controversy swirled around the attempt to name the park at 18th and Wirt, in part, after Chambers.

But the city council rejected it, citing controversial statements Chambers made in the past.

The Strehlow Terrace apartments were built in the early 1900's as luxury apartments, but they have since fallen into disrepair.

But the Omaha Housing Authority is putting $4.9 million into remodeling.

It will soon have 70 affordable housing units for as many as 240 people.

The courtyard in the center of the buildings was officially named "Chambers Court" with a plaque in his honor, Wednesday.

"He needs to be honored," said Frank Brown, OHA board chairman. "There needs to be a legacy. Kids have to know who Senator Chambers is and was."

"I do well with babies, children and old people, most of them," said Chambers. "It's that great mass in between that creates a problem for me."

Problems from controversial stances were considered bold by some and offensive by others.

City councilman Dan Welch discussed it in 2004 when the city council rejected the effort to put Chambers' name on a park.

"The problem with Senator Chambers is the way he addresses these issues," said Welch in 2004. "The divisive tone that he takes. The degredating of people."

"It shows why when negative things happen we just have to accept that as part of life and move on," Chambers said.

Controversial or not, his name will be a part of the project for years to come.

The first residents are expected to being moving in next summer.

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