North 30th revitalization continues with demolition of Omaha’s Spencer Homes

The public housing was built in the late 1950s and its tear-down will close a more than 60-year chapter for the area
The Omaha Housing Authority says demoliton of the Spencers Homes will start before the end of August.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Over the last several years, the revitalization of North 30th Street in Omaha has brought dozens of new housing and opportunities to the area.

That revitalization will begin its next phase in the coming days, with the demolition of the Spencer Homes at 30th and Spencer streets.

The public housing was built in the late 1950s and its tear-down will close a more than 60-year chapter for the area.

“It was really built as post-war housing for individuals and families who were coming home from the war and needed a place to be and over time really became a place where individuals and families who needed income support were staying,” says Joanie Poore, the CEO of the Omaha Housing Authority.

The barrack-style units haven’t changed much since they were built, but soon, they will. By 2024, they’ll be replaced.

“It’s really time to change this into something that makes more sense for the community,” Poore says. “Over 100 units of apartments, single-family homes, and townhomes [will be] where we’re standing today.”

Poore says one-third of the new units will remain affordable housing, one-third will be for middle-income or workforce housing, and the final units will be listed at market price.

She also says the units will be indistinguishable, meaning the affordable units and the market-price units will look exactly the same.

“What we really want to do is create housing in a neighborhood where everyone lives, not just something where we concentrate poverty in one place,” she adds.

The project comes as part of the larger revitalization project led by Omaha non-profit Seventy-Five North. The city of Omaha and the Omaha Housing Authority has partnered with the organization to bring new redevelopments to the area that include affordable housing.

A $25 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allowed the organizations to move forward with the Spencer Homes demolition and helped pay for the relocation of all the residents who lived there.

“I think that it was about time for them to tear Spencer down,” says former tenant Marion Williams.

Although she loved living there, Williams says the project comes at a perfect time because crime near the Spencer Homes area was getting overwhelming.

“I had a bullet go through my living room window and hit my ceilings, I had my granddaughter and two great-grandkids living with me at the time,” she says.

As a resident there, Williams spent her time helping other residents access food, and took the children at Spencer Homes on field trips and activities.

But due to the rising crime, and with the announcement of the Spencer demolition, Williams was relocated just up the street, at Seventy-Five North’s Nobility Point Highlander complex. It’s dedicated solely to senior residents.

“When they said that these up here were going to be built and senior citizens can move up here, I decided to come up here.”

The Omaha Housing Authority, the city, and Seventy-Five North say that once the new units at Spencer are complete, former residents will have the choice to move back there.

Williams says there’s no doubt some will, but she’s happy with her new setup.

“Since I’m up here, I love it so much and I’m not going to be one of the ones to go back.”

Williams continues to be an active resident at Nobility Point, just as she was at Spencer.

So far, she’s helped several other residents by connecting them with insurance and is actively advocating to bring a grocery store to the redeveloped area.

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