Originally Published: January 11, 2023
Lengthy list of South and North Omaha grant proposals whittled to 35
OMAHA — A year after debate launched over a whopping $335 million law aimed largely at lifting North and South Omaha, 35 recommended grant winners have emerged from a pack of 367.
On Tuesday, the legislative committee overseeing the Economic Recovery Act grant program announced its project picks, which range from a makeover of the South 24th Street “Plaza de la Raza” to the creation of a 100-acre Sankofa Innovation District on North 16th Street.
Recommended recipients — chosen for their promise of long-lasting economic growth and big change in low-income areas — are to share grants totaling roughly $225 million.
The balance of the $335 million is already earmarked for specific areas and projects, including a business park near Eppley Airfield, affordable housing and North Omaha innovation hubs.
Adopted last year as Legislative Bill 1024, the Economic Recovery Act designed to boost Nebraska communities impacted negatively by COVID-19 has a team of state senators overseeing the grant process.
Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, committee chairman, said the dollars represent historic investment in the state’s most disadvantaged communities.
“For North and South Omaha, these state and federal dollars are truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the long-standing social and economic challenges that have persisted for generations,” he said.
The committee’s whittled-down list — all ideas submitted totaled roughly $3 billion in requests — follows numerous public meetings, study groups and an analysis of proposals by a paid team led by Olsson design, planning and consulting of Omaha.
Recommended recipients are to be drawn up as a legislative bill to be voted on, possibly amended, this session by the full Legislature. Once approved, money is to be distributed in late summer and must be spent by the end of 2026.
Mecca of entrepreneurship
Among ventures recommended by the committee is the Sankofa district, envisioned as a mecca for entrepreneurship at 16th and Locust Streets. The effort would get a $40 million grant to launch a redevelopment containing talent training, an incubator program, mixed-income housing, retailers and more.
A sampling of other winners recommended in North Omaha: $20 million for the Omaha Economic Development Corporation’s “opportunity ecosystem,” which envisions 53 new businesses and 105 new residential lofts along 24th Street; and $14.5 million to the African-American Empowerment Network to expand and build upon existing programs.
In South Omaha, $39 million would go to the Q Street corridor partnership, which involves eight construction projects related to health, job training, social services and housing.
A sampling of other recommended ventures on the South Side: the Adelante project, led by the Latino Economic Development Council, would get $25 million, in part, to help rehab a plaza along 24th Street into a tourist magnet and community hub; $9 million would help expand El Museo Latino; $7.5 million would go to the Q Metro project and its new five-story, mixed-use facility with storefronts, affordable housing and offices for Midwest Maintenance Co.
More grants possible
Sens. Terrell McKinney and Tony Vargas, both of Omaha and both members of the committee, said that worthwhile projects were shaved from the winner list but may have a shot at future state dollars.
They expect the committee to seek additional funds this session for North and South Omaha ventures.
Other committee members are Sens. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, Mike McDonnell of Omaha and former Sens. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha and Mike Hilgers of Lincoln.
In choosing their slate of winners, the group and consulting team said in an 80-page report that they looked at compliance to the American Rescue Plan Act, which accounted for the bulk of the North and South Omaha funding.
Other key considerations were benefit to the area and the ability to positively influence the larger community by sparking future economic growth.
Once proposals were mapped out, the report said that distinct geographical areas of focus emerged. The committee then categorized winners in those areas, noting that impact could be amplified in such business clusters.
Some of the winning recommendations reflected a coalition of agencies or projects.
Clusters of focus
The focus areas and investment:
- North 16th Street, five proposals would receive a total of $67.6 million
- North 24th Street, 10 winning proposals would share nearly $54 million.
- South 24th Street, two groups would get a total of $34 million.
- Q Street corridor in South Omaha, where four proposals are to share $62 million.
In addition, a collection of 14 smaller grantees viewed by the committee as “quick wins” would be granted less than $1 million apiece. In total, those agencies or projects would share about $7 million.
McKinney said the goal was to create a plan led by the community.
“Unlike traditional funding opportunities which have preset guidelines, residents of North and South Omaha were given a blank canvas to be the change they want to see in their community,” he said.
Economic development funding recommendations
North 16th Street, five projects
City of Omaha, Levi Carter Activity Center and Sports Park, $13 million.
Creighton University, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Service Center, $2 million.
Sankofa Innovation District, Enterprise Park, $40 million.
Locust Street Development, $10.6 million.
Omaha 100 Inc., business grant, $2 million.
Total: $67.6 million
North 24th Street, 10 projects
Omaha Economic Development Corp., Community Innovation Campus, $8 million.
Omaha Economic Development Corp., North 24th Street: Opportunity Ecosystem, $20 million.
Heart Ministry Center, Heart Ministry Center Expansion and Social Enterprise, $1.5 million.
Nebraska Startup Academy, Nebraska Startup Academy, $1.2 million.
Forever North LLC, Forever North Mixed Use Development, $2 million.
African-American Empowerment Network, Pathway to Careers, Wealth and Community Ownership, three-year proposal, $14.5 million.
Culxr House, Culxr House economic proposal, $2.74 million.
Great Plains Black Museum and Interpretive Center Inc., the New Great Plains Black History Museum, $1.1 million.
Omaha Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, Fire Station 14 Redevelopment Project, $2 million.
Mildred D. Brown Memorial Study Center, MDBMSC development plan, $830,000.
Total: $53.87 million
South 24th Street, two projects
Southside Redevelopment Corporation, DBA Canopy South, Adelante II South Omaha Project (La Plaza de la Raza), $35 million.
El Museo Latino, Elevating the Tradition/Elevando la Tradicion, $9 million.
Total: $34 million
Q Street, four projects
Midwest Maintenance Co. Inc. and Midwest Maintenance Realty LLC, Q Metro, $7.5 million.
Southside Redevelopment Corp., DBA Canopy South, Q Street Corridor Economic Recovery Partnership, $39 million.
Stephen Center (North Omaha expansion), Stephen Center expansion, $10 million.
Partnership between three for-profit and one nonprofit organizations: No More Empty Pots, Community Investments Opportunities LLC (CIO), Collective Development and 3 Amigas, multipronged community economic development project in South Omaha, $5.8 million.
Total: $62.3 million
Small quick win proposals, 14 projects
Heartland Workforce Solutions, Heartland Workforce Solutions — Connecting People with Opportunities 2.0, $620,086.
Ital Vital Living, Ital Vital Living Health Hub Expansion, $1 million.
Noamin LLC, Noamin Complex, $500,000.
SAVE Program, academic mentoring and follow-through program, $200,000.
Midlands Latino Community Development Corp., culturally fluent financial education for refugees, $832,235.
Prospect Hill Cemetery Historical Site Development Foundation, Prospect Hill Cemetery Revitalization Project, $848,925.
RADIUS, RADIUS Workforce Development Grant, $678,545.
United Way of the Midlands, JAG Nebraska, $448,999.
Trauma House of Healing, Trauma House of Healing, $473,000.
Providing High Quality Early Care and Education in North Omaha, $300,000.
Wellbeing Partners, Head to Heart for Youth, $209,198.
Leading Edge Entrepreneur Group LLC, DBA The Business Connectionnne, Small Business Education Academy, $36,269.
The AIM Institute, strengthening and diversifying Omaha’s tech ecosystem, $499,958.
Total: $7.15 million.