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Omaha Planning Board OKs apartment building at Dodge, 38th Avenue despite concerns

Omaha Planning Board OKs apartment building at Dodge, 38th Avenue despite concerns

Block 38 Street Level (copy)

A rendering of the 131-unit apartment building proposed for the corner of Dodge Street and 38th Avenue.

The Blackstone District has revealed plans for a streetscape makeover expected to boost pedestrian safety and commerce by widening sidewalks and narrowing driving lanes along the trendy midtown Omaha strip.

A proposed 131-unit apartment project in midtown's Gold Coast historic district got a green light from the Omaha Planning Board, despite numerous objections from people who testified or wrote letters.

Complaints centered on the planned demolition of three vintage residential structures southeast of 38th Avenue and Dodge Streets to make way for what opponents described as a high-rent and nondescript building.

Opponents took issue with razing what they said were 21 existing affordable rental units within those structures. They also objected to the developer's request for $3.8 million in tax-increment financing.

"Use it (TIF) in areas that are actually blighted," Kristen DuPree told the board. A dozen people testified last week against the project; more submitted letters of opposition.

Planning Board member Michael Pate said he was conflicted over the loss of affordable rental buildings that also have architectural character. But after a lengthy hearing, he joined a 6-0 vote favoring the TIF request for the project, whose overall cost is now estimated at $28 million.

The City Council has yet to vote.

Developer Skylark LLC plans a seven-level building with two floors of parking, a workout facility, office space and a public coffee shop. 

Apartments would range in size from studio to two-bedroom units and in rent from about $825 to $1,700. About 10 of the units would be offered at an "affordable" rate yet to be determined, said Skylark's Stephen Sykes.

TIF is designed to spur economic activity in areas designated as blighted. Under the program, a developer obtains a loan to help cover eligible costs approved by the city. The loan is paid back, generally over 15 years, with the increase in taxes generated from the new development. Normally, property tax payments go to support schools and other local tax-reliant governments.

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Cindy covers housing, commercial real estate development and more for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

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