A new development corporation – Midtown 2050 Corporation – has been formed to coordinate and accelerate the next phase of midtown Omaha’s revitalization and progression into a dynamic, transit-oriented urban community.
The Midtown 2050 Board includes representation from key midtown stakeholders: Creighton University, Kiewit Corporation, Midtown Neighborhood Alliance, Heritage Services, Mutual of Omaha, Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Ken Cook, president of East Campus Realty LLC , the Mutual of Omaha subsidiary behind Midtown Crossing, will serve as chairman of Midtown 2050 Corporation.
“Midtown Vision 2050 is a visionary plan that guides growth and redevelopment in midtown Omaha for the next several decades,” Cook said. “This plan provides the overarching vision to guide and maximize midtown’s potential.”
Former U.S. Congressman Brad Ashford has been appointed Midtown 2050 Corporation president and executive director.
“I know the midtown area block-by-block,” Ashford said. “I know many of the property owners and have worked with all of the neighborhood groups. I understand the future of Midtown Vision 2050 depends on the connecting of the development that currently exists with the fabric of the existing neighborhoods and commercial areas.
The Midtown Vision 2050 vision plan builds on and seeks to accelerate the momentum seeded by the Destination Midtown initiative, construction of $365 million Midtown Crossing, UNMC’s vertical growth, the re-emergence of the Blackstone District, and residential redevelopment spearheaded by companies such as Urban Village.
“All of the projects that have been happening in midtown are incredibly positive, but there was a feeling they were not being pursued as part of a larger, coherent, all-encompassing vision,” Ashford said.
Joining Cook on the Midtown 2050 Corporation Board are Vice Chairman Alan Lincoln, real estate manager at Kiewit Corporation; Diana Failla, president of the Midtown Neighborhood Alliance; the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., president of Creighton University; Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., UNMC chancellor; and Daniel DeBehnke, M.D., president and CEO of Nebraska Medicine.
Midtown 2050’s area of focus is defined as Center Street to the south, 48th Street to the west, Cuming Street to the north and 20th Street to the east.
Midtown Vision 2050 goals include:
- Developing new and strengthening existing neighborhood nodes that will revitalize neighborhood communities with attractive streetscapes and a broader mix of commercial, residential and public uses
- Revitalizing and reprogramming public/green spaces to further enhance the quality of life in midtown
- Continuing the implementation of a modern Farnam streetcar to connect major destinations, catalyze new development and enhance walkability
- Encouraging City reinvestment in midtown infrastructure and traffic flow modifications
“A mixture of small business with the corporate presence in the area, the development of green space, the vibrancy of adjoining neighborhoods and a transportation plan that fits the needs of the entire community are all critical,” Failla said. “This plan takes full advantage of midtown’s assets and addresses the shortcomings by identifying the ‘missing pieces.’”
Midtown Vision 2050 sprang from discussions between midtown anchors Mutual of Omaha and UNMC about pursuing a cohesive vision for the future of midtown Omaha. They engaged an urban planning firm, DPZ Partners LLC, to evaluate midtown and set broad new goals for the community. One element of the vision plan called for the formation of an independent midtown development corporation – thus the launch of Midtown 2050 Corporation. A not-for-profit Nebraska corporation, it will lead the vision implementation process and coordinate crucial private and public investment.
“This is not a Mutual of Omaha initiative or a UNMC initiative; it’s a midtown Omaha community initiative, the private and public sectors working together. We’re proud to be part of that broad coalition with a clear vision to build a truly remarkable vibrant community,” Dr. Gold said.
Said Fr. Hendrickson, “The purpose of Midtown 2050 Corporation is to refocus the businesses, universities and other key stakeholders with the energy and vision to accelerate progress in achieving a modern vision of what midtown Omaha will be by 2050.”
Potential Economic Impact
Based on the recent work of experienced urban planners, the impact of implementing the Midtown Vision 2050 plan (for the five years following the initial streetcar and related restoration/development construction phase) is estimated to be an additional $8.7 billion in sales activity, boosting wages by $3.9 billion. This is estimated to contribute a minimum of $326 million to state and local tax collections for the five-year period. This compares to an estimated annual $6 million operating budget for the entire streetcar system over the same five-year period.
The potential benefits of the Midtown Vision 2050 vision extend to increasing the in-migration of educated millennials who disproportionately are moving into metropolitan areas that are walkable with green spaces and excellent public transportation. While millennials are returning to Midtown Crossing and the Blackstone District, Ashford believes opportunities are being missed.
“Culturally, the City must do more to attract millennials. Midtown Vision 2050 is a unique opportunity to cultivate more robust interaction between younger residents and more established neighborhoods,” Ashford said. “Midtown Vision 2050 is that future.”
Ashford’s appointment to lead Midtown Vision 2050 extends a career of community impact that stretches from Omaha to Capitol Hill. The attorney and former U.S. congressman spent 16 years in the Nebraska Unicameral, served as a founding member of the MECA Board, and led the Omaha Housing Authority in the early 2000’s.
“My career in public service has been focused to a significant degree in the development of the original City of Omaha,” Ashford said.