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Omaha millennials reinvesting in Old Market neighborhood

Posted at 4:49 PM, Nov 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-15 10:15:57-05

Omaha born Dr. Drew Olson, a millennial, walks through downtown Omaha along Farnam between 15th and 16th streets. 

"In this area sort of, it's not a void, but it's ready to pop," he said. 

Olson, a veterinarian, is setting up his practice off 15th and Farnam streets. He'll occupy three bays that sat vacant after CHI Creighton closed a downtown clinic. They'll be doing surgeries, procedures, and after-hour care.

Olson is aiming to open just after Thanksgiving. In total, he hopes to create a couple dozen jobs.

His motto: "Profits follow purpose." That purpose: Giving back to the community he's from.

Olson remembers being downtown a lot while he was growing up as his father worked in the courthouse off Farnam Street. He used to live downtown before marrying and moving.

Olson's far from alone. He and several other Omaha investors, recently bought the original First National Bank Building, on the corner of 16th and Farnam streets. He said that hometown feel gives the owners a leg up. 

"That building was owned by an outfit out of Minnesota," he said. 

Some businesses there, like Culprit Cafe, are already successful. Olson hopes to bring in more.

"What sort of additional business avenues can we add?" he said. 

Inside, one of those additional businesses is coming in the form of a partnership.

Rebekah Pasqualetto owns the Vintage Ballroom, a dance hall and wedding venue in the Old Market. In this new space, she plans to renovate the old bank interior for event space fitting 200-400 people.

"Downtown is really lacking a space that size for venues, that aren't attached to so many restrictions already," she said. 

Pasqualetto is also a millennial. She said her generation is young and hungry.

"I was 25 when I opened Vintage Ballroom. I am 27 now. I am already operating two businesses, and to open another location as a third is incredibly scary," she said. "But that is what is nice about working with people your own age: You’re all kind of in that similar mindset."