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Groups Weigh in on 16th Street Downtown

Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 19:26:41-05

While new development happens across Omaha, many are hoping revisiting a decision made in the 1960s will bring the city together.

Pettits Pastries has been serving up donuts on the corner of 16th and Cass streets since the 1950s. Back when 16th connected north Omaha to Bellevue.

Owner mark pettit says businesses in the area are still hampered by a decision in the late 60s to close off 16th Street.

"So many businesses in this area fought closing it,” Pettit said. “And the development on south 16th Street didn't really materialize the way they thought and i think by opening it up it would make a big difference."

Omaha city council president Ben Gray says talks of reopening 16th Street are nothing new, but he says as Omaha pushes for better transportation, it could be time to reconnect the street.

"I think it’s critical for us to open up 16th street for if nothing else for a transpiration system,” Gray said. “Especially if we're continuing to talk about a BRT and a rail system and all of that."

There is one obvious barrier to reconnecting the street - the Double Tree hotel, which sits on top of where 16th used to connect. The general manager says there have been no formal plans presented to the hotel about tearing it down or building a tunnel underneath it.

Members of the North Downtown Neighborhood Alliance say they want to move on from the past and start investing in the future.

"I won't say anything other than I think it will be correcting a wrong,” B.C. Clark, a member of the alliance, said. “And not only that but you're missing out on such a vibrant part of the community and of the city."

For Pettit, who serves donuts to both guests and employees of the hotel, the benefits of reconnecting north downtown to the core outweigh everything else.

"If they do the streetcar maybe it would make access for that too," Pettit said.

3 News Now received a statement from Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert saying, "opening 16th street would make a lot more sense to encourage downtown development and jobs."

There is currently not a proposal to reopen 16th street but council president Gray says it would likely by a public-private partnership.