Omaha Land Bank gets new executive director

The Omaha Land Bank has a new executive director.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 4:41 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Since 2014, the Omaha Municipal Land Bank has worked to transform distressed vacant properties into productive spaces.

That mission has been challenging -- the land bank has to deal with back taxes, demolition liens and weed and litter cleanup. That can make buying the properties pricey.

Executive Director Leslie Smith has been on the job less than a month, but she’s already hit the ground running.

“Based on our strategic plan we need to get out into the community,” Smith said. “We need to be more transparent. We need to align with existing efforts.”

Smith has experience helping to grow the land bank in Memphis, Tennessee, but she says she’s willing to learn about Omaha and the needs of its community.

“So I do believe that it’s very hard for me to come from the outside and tell people what I would like for them to see,” Smith said. “I would like to see the community get their needs realized, to help transform those vacant properties and to the assets they help to advise.”

The Omaha Land Bank has a new executive director, and she says she's excited to get to know and work with the community.

The Omaha Municipal Land Bank owns more than 300 properties. Most of them are in North Omaha. Some of them are ready to be developed; there are other spots where officials will need neighbors to buy into the idea of improving their neighborhood.

“I would love to work first in the North Omaha area,” Smith said. “I would love to get to know the people, get involved, establish a presence, so we can build trust...develop meaningful and impactful relationships, and then make sure they know how to access properties in the land bank.”

The Omaha Land Bank is working to transform properties into assets for the community, grow productive green space, and create affordable housing, something that’s in short supply across the country.

“I think if we could have more small-scale developers, people of North Omaha can build generational wealth. It’s the path of wealth-building in America,” Smith said.

Smith says she is excited to get to work and adds the previous land bank leadership built a strong foundation and good staff.