Few properties have gone through as many redevelopment proposals as the Lerner Building has. Since 1995 when the City of Omaha took ownership of the property, the building has been a target for redevelopment. The only problem? It took almost 15 years to find one that would stick.
Bought for the price of just $157,500 in May of 2012, the District, as the project is being called, will take the corner of 16th and Harney to new heights, literally. With plans to create over 4,000 square feet of retail space and 36-38 multifamily apartment units, the 16,000 square foot structure will be expanded to accommodate these ideas. Whats interesting though, is that the expansion isn’t horizontal, its vertical. The development team, which is a partnership between Dicon Corp. and Seldin Company, intend to add 3 stories to the top of the existing two-story structure.
At a price tag close to $6 million, the project will serve as a starting off point for the revitalization of 16th Street. Dormant for years, the once bustling heart of the city has been relegated into a gathering point for many of Omaha’s economically disenfranchised. Popular for almost a century, 16th Street was once the place to be in downtown. But in the wake of the post war 50s and the dawn of a new sprawling society, urban malls no longer had their place in Omaha. Once Brandies closed in 1980, the wide pedestrian corridors that lined 16th Street became a hindrance to parking as opposed to a guide for pedestrian traffic. One by one businesses closed and the street began to decline.
Soon though, 16th Street will carry with it a different legacy. As the city continues to work on plans to create angled street parking, remove unsightly bus shelters, and reroute bus traffic away from 16th Street, more developers like Dicon and Seldin will be attracted to the area. Although it may never again live up to the reputation of the retail heartbeat of the city, it is about to enter a new stage in its life, starting with The District.