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Railcar among major changes coming to Midtown

Posted at 10:21 PM, Feb 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-05 23:26:14-05
A new group is emerging to change the face of Midtown and Blackstone. 
 
The multimillion dollar project would change the area over the next 10 years.
 
Changes include a passenger rail car and improvements to sidewalks, streets and infrastructure. 
 
"It's really kind of a shift in thinking about what Omaha is going to look like and how it's going to feel and how it's going to be,” sais Midtown Vision 2050 President Brad Ashford. “It's going to enhance the ability for Omaha to grow and attract young people to work." 
 
Within five years, Midtown Vision 2050 wants to build a railcar that would carry passengers from Blackstone, through Midtown to the Old Market, and eventually to CenturyLink Center.
 
"It’s been a long, long time coming, and the fact that the Blackstone area is in a state of redevelopment just gives a catalyst to making the light rail work to connect these different neighborhoods," said Bill Baburek, owner of the Crescent Moon bar. 
 
Baburek opened the Crescent Moon before Blackstone was called Blackstone.
 
The area has grown a lot in the last 21 years, but it's ready for major improvements, Baburek said.
 
"We’ve come a long ways just in the last few years, Baburek said. “There's a great deal of more potential that hasn't been tapped into for sure."
 
Other changes besides the rail car are opening one-way streets to two way traffic, creating more places for people to walk and bike, and attracting more restaurants, bars and businesses. 
 
"The infrastructure is here,” Ashford said. “The opportunity for growth is here. We have many, many empty lots, parking lots that can be filled, that can be developed." 
 
Michael Beat, who lives in Blackstone, says the change is welcome if it's done right.
 
"You shouldn’t fix something that’s not broken,” Beat said. “Anytime you have people meeting each other from a variety of areas, it’s a good thing for communication.” 
 
Midtown Vision 2050 is going to ask the city for about $140 million to help with the project.
 
They say the mayor likes their plans.