The City of Omaha and three private property owners have finalized letters of intent for the purchase of three buildings at 11th and Douglas. The deal is contingent on Omaha Performing Arts selling their parking lot at 11th and Dodge to HDR, Inc. so they can build a new high-rise headquarters building. The purchase includes the historic Christian Specht Building that is designated a local historical landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The city will spend $10-million on the three properties.
The Omaha Planning Board added H-D-R, an architectural, engineering and consulting firm’s proposal to a blueprint to the downtown area. They want to build a new 16 story, 30,000 square-feet headquarter building on land currently owned by Omaha Performing Arts. Omaha Performing Arts is willing to sell the land if they can obtain the property at 11th and Douglas Streets so they can expand parking and possibly another facility.
Kristine Gerber is the executive director for Restoration Exchange and says the problem is older, historic buildings would have to come down and one has historic designation. She says, “There has been huge public opposition to this. We are excited to hear that the mayor is on our side and not wanting eminent domain. We are rallying the troops and working now on some design solutions.”
Gerber says one of the buildings, The Christian – Specht is on the National Register of Historic Places. She says that offers it some protection. To raise that building it would have to be de-listed and that has to be done through the courts. She says to de-list it, owners would have to prove economic hardship and there is none.
The Christian – Specht building stands at 11th and Douglas Streets and was built in 1900. It is the only building in the state with a cast iron facade.
Gerber is hoping the community rallies around the building owners because they have done an excellent job restoring them and providing a taxable income for that area.