City council hears support, oppostion to...

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 19:27:40-05

The public gets a chance to speak out on the proposed Holland center expansion, as the city contemplated buying three century old buildings near 11th & Douglas St. in Downtown Omaha.

The Omaha City Council voted unanimously to approve the amendment the the Downtown Northeast Redevelopment Plan that would include expansion for the Holland Performing Arts Center.  Omaha Performing Arts recently sold a plot of land for HDR to build their new headquarters.

For about an hour, two dozen people spoke in support and against the plan.

"I believe that the arts fulfill a place in your soul that make you a better person," said Emily Tonniges, a part-time OPA employee and volunteer.
The mayor's office has pledged $10 million to purchase the 3 buildings more than 100 years old each.  One of which, the Specht building, is on the historic landmark list.
“I find it questionable that this is the best use of $10 million of city funds,” said Andrew Lachance of Omaha.

Omaha Performing Arts says they're evaluating all their needs and the entire site and the concerns are resonating.

The city says nothing being approved today is to allow the OPA to bulldoze the building since they still don't own the land yet.  There was no landmark status proposal, or transfer of land.  All those issues need to go in front of the council at a later date.

"We could just say no today and everything stops, no HDR moving downtown, no development, no connection to Shamrock, no connection to Capitol (District) and I firmly don't believe even the opponents here today want to see that happen," Councilwoman Amy Melton explained.

Councilman Gernandt raised concerns of how this money was found so quickly when it's difficult to find $1 million to help taxpayers get better emergency services.

The first reading on the actual architectural plans when the OPA brings forward is anticipated to be introduced at the February 2nd meeting.