A 225-acre lake could soon alter northwest Omaha's landscape as part of a broad plan to control flooding along the western portion of the metropolitan area.
Known officially as Flood Control Dam Site 15A, the project would involve a two-mile-long reservoir and city park near 168th and Fort Streets.
Though controlling downstream flooding is the priority for the dam, officials with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District said the project also will bring fishing, a boat ramp, trails and picnic areas to the neighborhood.
Further development of the city's growing northwest fringe could follow.
“By creating one of these flood-control structures, you create opportunities for development to occur,” said John Winkler, the NRD general manager. “It's just a byproduct of what we do.”
Last week the NRD approved an agreement with the City of Omaha to develop the lake. The City Council will vote on the proposed agreement between Omaha and the NRD next month.
Developers and planners say that at a time when home sales are on the rise, the lake could accelerate housing activity in the city's northwest corner.
Marc Stodola, president and owner of Charleston Homes, expressed confidence that hard times in his business are in the past. An amenity such as a reservoir with recreational features would further boost sales in that area, he said.
“I think it will help,” Stodola said. “The housing industry is really on the upswing right now.”
Marty Shukert, a principal with RDG Planning & Design, said such projects don't unilaterally trigger development around them. For example, Cunningham Lake at 96th and State Streets never fulfilled its big expectations when it was created in the 1970s, Shukert said.
But if there is already momentum for development in an area, a project including recreational amenities can stimulate growth, he said. And market demand already exists in northwest Douglas County, he said.
Construction of the $45 million to $50 million project could begin next fall, with a potential completion date of spring 2015. The city would agree to pay for any additional recreational features on the site and take over operations and maintenance once construction is complete.
The lake would resemble southwest Omaha's Zorinsky Lake recreation area at 156th and F Streets.
A total of 700 acres are needed for the new project, which would relocate two power poles and require a bridge for a portion of Ida Street that would cross the reservoir. North 180th Street would eventually be extended and realigned around the reservoir, and a short boulevard would be built along its eastern shore.
The NRD probably would use bond revenue to pay for land acquisition, design and construction work, while the city would pay to design and construct sewers along with recreational improvements such as trails and boat ramps.
Jana Faller, president and owner of Synergy Real Estate and Development, said Nebraska doesn't have many lakes, so demand for housing near the proposed reservoir and park could be high.
“People looking for that lifestyle will be drawn to it,” Faller said. Her company represents the owner of Stratford Park lots near 168th and State Streets.
Trenton Magid, a principal with World Group Commercial Real Estate, said he still is seeing great demand for apartment properties. But as the economy improves, that demand will turn into desire for starter homes, he said.
People looking for walking and biking paths will like the lake plan, Magid said.
“I think that would be good,” Magid said. “I think we're seeing a resurgence.”
The project will provide flood control for the Papillion Creek watershed in the Omaha area, NRD officials said.
That 402-square-mile area, which also flows through parts of west Omaha, Millard and Papillion, ranks among the most flood-prone in the state. Winkler, the NRD official, said the improvements would bring added protection to at-risk commercial areas in southwest Omaha.
A similar city partnership with the NRD helped create Youngman Lake near 192nd Street and West Dodge Road, though the newest plan would dwarf that lake, as well as Standing Bear Lake near 144th and Fort Streets.
“This is big,” Winkler said.
Development of the northwest Omaha lake would follow construction of a $17 million, 135-acre lake just north of the Werner Park stadium in Papillion.
“Protecting lives, livelihoods and property is the goal,” Winkler said.
But Omaha officials see the potential for other benefits.
“People like water,” said Steve Oltmans, chief of staff to Mayor Jim Suttle and a former NRD general manager. “It's just a human thing. And of course there'll be parks facilities and a trail, and that's very appealing to citizens — and to developers, for that matter.”
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