Fight to save 100-year-old streetcar barn

Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-14 18:39:06-04

There is a battle over the future of a century old building in North Omaha.

The city wants to demolish the Streetcar Barn at 26th and Lake to make room for a parking lot.

The building was built in 1905, and preservationists are fighting to keep it standing.

The Streetcar Barn was built in 1905 and holds historic value, and several investors are showing interest in buying and renovating it.

“The Streetcar is really the 24th and Lake front door, it is really the first building you see,” said Kristine Gerber, who is the Executive Director for Restoration Exchange Omaha.

Gerber said she heard over the summer the city had plans to tear the building down and she knew she had to bring attention to the historical significance of the Streetcar.

“The worst thing we can do is tear down a large historical building that we already know that have a lot of people interested in developing,” said Gerber.

In May the building became a part of the 24th and Lake Historical District, but because it is not a city landmark, nothing protects it from being demolished.

“I don't think many of us knew the significance of that building,” said City Council President Ben Gray.

He said that learning its history has changes his mind about demolishing it right now.

“I think we need to hit the pause button, I think we need to take another look at those who are interested, and the significance with that building,” said Gray.

The cities vehicle repair shop shares the property the old Streetcar Barn sits on, and there were plans to put in an employee parking lot. Gerber argues there are other empty lots surrounding the area to put in a parking lot.

Gray and Gerber agree that restoring the building would enhance the neighborhood.

“Lets create something that will drive traffic and drive jobs to that community,” said Gerber.  

“Right now in my opinion the best interest in that area does not serve tearing that building down,” said Gray.

Gray said the next steps are either someone buys the building, or the city will attempt to pass a resolution to tear it down. Both options would go before city council.