When Ethan Bondelid opened his nightclub on 10th Street south of the Old Market, it had few neighbors, was “off the beaten path” — and was the kind of place people plan to go to rather than drop in on the way to somewhere else.
That was House of Loom in 2011. Today, residential and commercial neighbors are about to sprout around it at a rate that has Bondelid and business partners planning expanded hours to capture the new market. Nearby, Bondelid also is behind the coming Via Farina, a pizza parlor that will zip wood-fired specialties to the growing customer base via a fleet of Italian scooters.
Among other grand openings planned soon for the area: a theater and urban park; upscale bar and grill; row houses; an old railroad depot gaining new life as a TV news station; and a former postal annex-turned-corporate headquarters.
“How fast it’s all happening this year is phenomenal,” Bondelid said.
The latest property shift — and heightened concern about development along the 10th Street corridor — came to light last week as operators of the Christ Child facility confirmed that they will close the longtime community center at 10th and William Streets.
John Griffith of the Omaha Archdiocese’s Catholic Charities said demographic changes had led to declining participation and that, following a funding cut, the Archdiocese couldn’t afford to subsidize the center. The swimming pool already had shut down, as did senior citizen programming.
Julie Burt, Christ Child Society president, said her nonprofit board agreed. The society has been based at the corner site since 1923 but turned primary care and ownership to Catholic Charities in 2007.
“The neighborhood is becoming gentrified,” Burt said. “It is changing.”
While developers view the corridor as hot real estate, neighborhood leaders like the eclectic mix and don’t want to see it go too far in another direction.
Dotting 10th Street, on a half-mile stretch south from downtown, are places such as Cascio’s Steak House; the contemporary CO2 Apartments; Grace University; historic St. Frances Cabrini Church and All Saints grade school; mansions; single-family homes, old homes-turned-apartments; the Sons of Italy Hall; and Dunsany Flats condos.
Controversy hit earlier this year when preservationists objected to a developer razing a 129-year-old mansion (modified to a funeral home) to make way for a row house project north of Christ Child.
Karen Bluvas of the Dahlman Neighborhood Association said she’d like to see the Christ Child site remain a community resource.
Family sizes of yesteryear’s Little Italy may have shrunk. But, Bluvas said, there still are plenty of young people, students, families, baby boomers and older folks.
“I still think we need that neighborhood anchor,” she said. “We have so many positive things going on; there is a need for a community gathering place.”
The Rev. Damian Zuerlein, the new pastor at St. Frances, is eyeing the Christ Child property for church- and student-related services. Catholic Charities has agreed to delay any sale until St. Frances determines whether it can afford the building.
Although Zuerlein said it’s too early to know how else the parish might use the 12,600-square-foot structure, he would like to see community meetings there. He’s also open to renting space to community-based arts and other groups that offer programs for youths and families.
The artsy theme earlier was planted along the 10th Street corridor by developer Nancy Mammel.
Mammel built the CO2 apartments. More recently, she spearheaded the Boxcar 10 housing and retail building where Via Farina will open, and donated land for the neighboring Blue Barn Theatre.
Mammel has described that cluster, including an urban park behind the Blue Barn, as a mini-arts campus. She’s excited about newer creative projects, including transformation of a 108-year-old postal annex into a year-round public marketplace.
“I love the wave of development and think it will continue.”
Jamie Pogge, who in about a month plans to open the Burlington League bar and restaurant at 1002 S. 10th, welcomes the rash of development.
Her fiancé, Terry Waschinek, as part of Tenth Street Bridge Properties LLC, bought the larger retail strip six years ago. Rain Salon and Tenth Sanctum Tattoo moved into bays last year.
Waschinek in October also bought a 115-year-old building at 1016 S. 10th and is renovating the 2,900-square-foot structure into an upscale condo and ground-floor commercial space.
Meanwhile, KETV is resurrecting the Burlington train station into a media facility expected to open this year. Boyd Jones Construction began a $25 million restoration of the decades-empty Burlington Postal Annex, 950 S. 10th, into business and retail space to open late next year.
“We were at the right place at the right time,” Pogge said.
More housing is coming soon at the Corvina, a 125-unit apartment and retail building rising on the north side of the future KETV.
Farther south, Clarity Development is preparing to build South Hill Rowhouses. The 1.3-acre project has expanded to 36 homes.
Clarity’s Tom McLeay expects the 10th Street corridor to remain alluring to developers. Unlike some areas of midtown or downtown, he said, Little Italy and fringes have a “real neighborhood feel and character.”
“Yet you can walk to everything that downtown has to offer,” he said.
Embracing the Little Italy charm, Bondelid said he and business partner Paul Kulik (of Le Bouillon and the Boiler Room Restaurant) are creating a modern Italian vibe at Via Farina, 1008 S. 10th.
The restaurant, set to open this year, will thrive on speedy food preparation in a Neapolitan wood-fired oven. Patrons can eat in, take a box lunch to the urban park or have pizza or pasta delivered by scooter.
Bondelid expects Via Farina and House of Loom to be busy as the theater opens and area traffic builds.
“A lot is going on around here,” Bondelid said. “It’s great.”
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