Economic recovery grants helping set revitalization plans on 16th Street into motion

Multiple organizations are looking to lead a recovery program for North Omaha and South Omaha businesses and infrastructure.
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 5:40 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The North 16th Street corridor has been economically overlooked for years.

Sean McNeil recently opened a business there, bringing high tech to classic cars: Purpose Driven.

“We are (a) felon-friendly employer, so we want to make sure that we decrease the level of recidivism in the neighborhood,” McNeil said. “We want to teach trades so they can transfer into the community and the families.”

McNeil hopes to bring pride back to what’s left of the business district along North 16th.

Help is on the way -- plans to renovate the historic building across from McNeil’s business are being set in motion.

“I like trying to see if I can do something that a lot of people don’t see.”

A lot of people don’t see how engineer Lawrence Butler can save that building that’s been vacant for years.

“Being a structural engineer, we can kind of fix those things and kind of leave a lot of the historic character in the building,” Butler said.

Butler has done it before -- saving and renovating the Allas Apartments a year ago.

“That’s also a historic building, so if we can get historic buildings on 16th Street and try to save that commercial district, I think it will be good for the area and encourage more development,” he said.

Butler plans to convert this project, located next door to the Allas, into four affordable apartment units, put in solar panels to pick up the utility tab for the tenants and add high-speed internet.

“It’s just a fantastic example of what you can do when you put your mind to it and put all your trust in God,” Butler said.

Butler says it will run between $3,000 and $4,000 to fix up the building. McNeil is thrilled to see the possibility of North 16th Street coming back to life.

He says he will resubmit his application for a share of the recovery grant money -- dollars he says will help do much more along the 16th Street corridor.

“I firmly believe we’re in a lot better position to do something spectacular...we’re probably talking in the $10-20 million range,” Butler said.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development tell 6 News eligible applicants are those businesses listed on the coordination plan. Applications have not gone live yet, but the first is expected to roll out within the week.