Storz will move in to former Rick’s Cafe
Big news for the former Rick’s Café Boatyard: The Storz Brewing Co. is moving in.
The Omaha brewer that closed its plant in 1972 is bringing back its beer, which it will serve in the 19,000-square-foot bar and restaurant on the riverfront. The Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery will be operated by Yves Menard, owner of the Charlie’s on the Lake restaurant. It is scheduled to open Nov. 15.
The city-owned property has been quiet since January, when Rick’s closed and its owner defaulted on his lease agreement with the city.
Budget hints at future projects
Check out the entire Capital Improvement Program 2014-2019 plan here.
Trucks causing rumblings in north downtown
If you hang out around a stretch of historic warehouses-turned offices in north downtown, you can apparently experience something similar to an earthquake.
Business and building owners along a stretch of Nicholas Street, just north of TD Ameritrade Park, are fed up with big trucks roaring past, headed for the Interstate from industries in north Omaha.
It’s a tricky problem for the city, which has encouraged development around the stadium and the CenturyLink Center, but also wants to see companies thrive a few blocks to the north. So far, there’s no great solution.
Planning changes will wait for director
Mayor Jean Stothert says she’ll wait until she hires a new planning director until she implements any of the big changes she talked about during her campaign.
Discussions about reforming the Planning Department were front and center during this spring’s election.
With Stothert in office, there’s already been some shuffling in the department.
Next steps for design rules
The organization that has helped shaped the way Omaha looks has hit some significant milestones.
It’s been 10 years since Omaha By Design began working in earnest on design guidelines that provide rules on everything from building materials to green spaces around intersections. Now, the group has become a nonprofit organization and is coming up with more plans — and trying to make sure the city’s new mayor is on board.
Mayor Jean Stothert says she’s supportive of the city having design standards, but is concerned some could push developers to other cities.
Hotel developer looking for TIF
The developer of a north downtown project that will include a full-service hotel, apartments and retail space is looking to get up to $35 million in tax-increment financing.
The request for TIF was approved by the Planning Board on Wednesday and will now move on to the City Council. Mike Moylan, the president of Shamrock Development, said the financing will be crucial to getting the entire project completed at the same time. His target: December 2015.
“Without a doubt, (TIF) is extremely important to the success of this particular site,” he said. “We’re looking at a large-scale, mixed-use development we’d like to have occur all at one time, and it cannot be done without the support of TIF.”
Officials with the city and the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority have pointed to the hotel as a key attraction for convention bookers. With the Hilton Omaha, the new Marriott that will go up on the site at 10th Street and Capitol Avenue will provide more rooms for people attending events at the CenturyLink Center.
Devil in the details on arena plan
A planned arena for the University of Nebraska at Omaha has the Omaha City Council’s unanimous support. Now the city just has to find a way to pay for its share.
“The devil’s in the details,” said Larry Jobeun, a real estate attorney representing the university. That includes plans for traffic and parking around the $76 million arena near Aksarben Village, not to mention funding millions of dollars worth of city-financed infrastructure around the site.
Councilman Chris Jerram said “there’s plenty of time between now and the next vote” to iron out more specifics, including how exactly city government will get involved — and, Jerram said, the nuances needed to make that work.
Cassie Seagren, Stothert’s deputy chief of staff for economic development, said the city’s commitment will be funded without a tax increase or a delay in projects prioritized in Omaha’s plan for capital improvements.
“I would just say we’re exploring all (funding) options at this point,” Seagren told council members Tuesday.
Omaha’s sewer burden: “medium”
A new study of Omaha’s huge sewer project provides both good and bad news.
The good: Helped in part by Omaha’s strong economy, the overall burden of the $2 billion (and growing) project is classified as “medium.”
The bad: That’s probably not good enough to lobby for more time or assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Omaha officials have been watching as some of the other cities working on similar projects have tried to catch a break. And while the University of Cincinnati Economics Center researcher hired by the city didn’t think the problem here was dire, he did say he expects things to get worse.
Report questions suburban sprawl
A team of consultants from IBM have issued a report on the status and future of Omaha’s development.
Key among their findings: Focusing growth on suburban areas will harm the city’s long-term economic health. The consultants suggest changes to the property tax structure, including making rates higher for people who live in areas with low population density. They also propose assigning fees for city services like garbage collection and parks based on population density.
The study was funded with a grant that provided about $400,000 in consulting services. Omaha was one of 33 cities worldwide to receive one of the grants.
Read the entire report here.
UPDATE: Another department head has stepped down: Richard O’Gara, director of the city’s Human Resources Department. Steve Kerrigan is currently filling in for O’Gara.
The decision was his own, he told me earlier today. The Planning Department was targeted by Mayor Jim Suttle’s challengers during the city election cycle. The mayor-elect has said she wants new blood on City Hall’s 11th floor.
“I am proud of what I believe has been accomplished while I’ve been here,” Cunningham said. “It was a great pleasure being here and serving in my hometown. It’s been an honor.”
Stothert has also hired her right hand man, as work to bring in a new administration continues.
Stothert has a lot of hires to make, besides the high-profile Planning Department post, including directors for the city finance and parks departments. Not to mention a staff for her office.
Stothert officials got the keys to the space this week and have since worked to connect phone lines, Internet connections and email and voicemail accounts. Stothert will use the space through her June 10 inauguration.