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Omaha closer to having an entertainment district

Posted at 6:28 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 19:28:40-05
As soon as the summer another neighborhood could emerge downtown.
 
A change for the Capitol District could soon translate to big changes downtown.
 
Omaha is closer to having an entertainment district, as construction continues on the more than $200 million project downtown.
 
Tuesday, the city council will look making the Capitol District an entertainment district, allowing customers of several bars and restaurants to mingle with their drinks in a designated area. 
 
“The central plaza is about the size of a football field,” said Michael Moylan, president of Shamrock Development. “We're trying to design it as a modern-day, contemporary twist on the town square." 
 
While many are excited for the 333-hotel room, 218-apartment building project, with 15 to 20 bars and restaurants, this Old Market business owner is skeptical.  
 
"It's scary,” said Jake Gardner, owner of The Hive bar. “We saw what the Haymarket did to Lincoln, to O St. It completely emptied out O St. Everybody thought it would be fluke and they would go back. Nobody went back." 
 
Tuesday is the city council’s first reading of the proposed changes that would allow entertainment districts in Omaha.
 
"We feel this designation is extremely important to make it as successful as it could be not only for the city of Omaha but for visitors," Moylan said.
 
Moylan says an entertainment district would benefit all of downtown.
 
"We know we're making the pie bigger with everything else we're bringing to the district, not just restaurants and bars carving up the pie downtown," Moylan said.
 
Gardner says he's both fearful and excited about the Capitol District.
 
"To see this kind of development is really exciting, I just hope that it serves as a bridge instead of a dam," Gardner said.
 
Both Moylan and Gardner agree, the Old Market will continue as a unique destination.
 
"The worlds are going to be so different that it's not going to take away as much as the business owners down here would like to think,” Gardner said. “At the same time we don't know. We don't know until it's here."
 
Developers of the Capitol District say they'll apply to be an entertainment district if the city allows it.
 
Other neighborhoods, such as Aksarben, would also likely qualify to become one.