Project could rehab forgotten neighborhood

Published: Dec. 20, 2016 at 10:21 PM CST
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Omaha City Council is now considering an ordinance which could help bridge a gap between the Old Market and North Downtown with the city’s first entertainment district.

"Many other cities have done this including Lincoln and Kansas City,” said Omaha Councilman Pete Festersen.

A developer is working to create The Capitol District and buildings are already going up. Much like the Railyard in Lincoln, the company's vision is to connect hotels, bars, restaurants and apartments into one common space where you can openly carry alcoholic drinks.

"I think it has the potential to bring more business to the downtown area especially with the amount of investment in the new buildings and facilities where this would apply,” said Festersen.

The district also brings the potential for investments in old buildings including some of Omaha’s historic factories. Phil Hawkins works in one of the few buildings that is in use. Hot Shops hosts about 70 artists. Since the new hotels were built just next door they're being exposed to new clients.

"People from all over who come and then when they see the art outside it spurs interest in them and they want to come and see it,” said Hawkins. "These buildings over here actually have a lot of life to them they're just…they're empty.”

With another brand new hotel as part of the project, Hawkins hopes investors might see fit to finally fill the empty spaces in north Downtown.

The Marriott is expected to be finished around June, just in time for the College World Series. The city council will hear public comments on the proposed entertainment district during its board meeting January 10th. Council members are then expected to vote at their meeting on the 24th.