With all the development going on, some believe the heart of Omaha has been neglected. There has been talk for years about redeveloping the 16th Street corridor, but those who have businesses in the area are tired of talk and want action. It looks like they're going to get it.
Sixteenth Street between Harney and Farnam has a history of violence and rowdy crowds. It has changed very little over the years. Many think the rundown bus shelters are a major cause of the problem.
“People who ride the bus need to get somewhere, but these bus shelters are giving people a place to linger all day long,” said business owner Dave Osborn. “There’s a lot of loitering going on out here and some of those people using the shelter aren’t waiting for the bus.”
There is hope. There are plans to tear down the MAT bus shelters and replace them with new, temporary ones and to widen the street and return parking to the area. Already, renovation has stared on the Lerner Building. Office and residential space will be there. Business owners in the area are delighted.
“We're very excited about that, to get some more parking downtown,” said Jerry Smock of Doozy’s. “It’s going to be awesome. Actually, I think it will help increase our business.”
Removal of the bus shelters will begin later this month, but right now there is no timetable for returning parking to the area. Osborn says he has heard all of this talk before. “I've read reports every year for the last three years that they're going to take the bus stops and then they're going to widen the street, put parking back in, but then every summer comes and they don’t do it. One of the reasons I moved in here is because I read the article last October. I had great hopes they would do it, but what I'm hearing it’s not going to happen anytime soon.”
It will take time to bring parking back to the area. Officials tell Channel 6 News 16th and Cass will be the site for the new transit center. All the buses that now roll through 16th and Harney and Farnam will come through there, eliminating the need for bus shelters and crowds of people along 16th and Farnam. The new transit center should be built sometime next summer.