Public weighs in on 11th and Douglas...

Posted at 10:59 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 23:59:28-05

Progress versus preservation, people went to city hall on Tuesday to give the Omaha city council an earful about the 10-million dollar deal at 11th and Douglas.

It would allow engineering firm, HDR to build its headquarters downtown and give Omaha performing arts room to expand the Holland Center.

If the land swap gets approved, the three buildings at 11th and Douglas will be in OPA's hands and they will decide the future of these historic buildings.

"We do not need more parking lots, we need more green space, and lots of trees," said opponent Kathleen Hughes.

The pushback continues on the controversial deal, that could come at the expense of the buildings at 11th and Douglas.

"Great cities are not great cities because of their abundant parking. My wife and I don't go to Chicago because of their exceptional and expensive and reliable parking," said opponent Craig Moody.

Some who spoke against the proposal said their voices are not being heard.

"We feel like we want to be engaged citizens we want to be a part of the city we call home and we feel left in the dark and it's really upsetting," said one opponent.

"The voice of the people says you did not involve us, and we do not approve your methods, I ask you to consider a process  by which this controversy has unfolded in a public arena and what it signals to the public," said opponent Brian Smith.

But city leaders say this is a good deal brining 1,000 jobs downtown and boosting the local economy. HDR CEO George Little said the company wants to help revive the downtown area, "While building downtown is a higher cost for HDR, we believe in the future of our city's urban core as a vibrant, residential and commercial center that works for our company and our employees".

Restoration Exchange Omaha's Kristine Gerber said adding a parking lot where the 11th and Douglas buildings stand would create a dead zone in the area. But her architects are closely working with OPA to preserve the historic and old buildings.

"We are going to fight until the end to keep these standing because we feel like it's going to be better for the city," said Gerber.

The city council is expected to vote on the measure February 23rd. The buildings will be there at least until May of 2017.