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Plan for 158-unit apartment community has some Morton Meadows residents concerned

Plan for 158-unit apartment community has some Morton Meadows residents concerned

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Bluestone Development has purchased another chunk of midtown Omaha with an eye toward building a 158-unit apartment community near Saddle Creek Road and Pacific Streets.

The effort has some Morton Meadows residents anxious about parking, congestion and overall change to their neighborhood, whose proximity to major employers such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center has made it prime for redevelopment and new housing.

Joseph Piper, whose family home would abut the project, said he’s wary that big redevelopments are encroaching more and more on single-family residential areas. He visited Bluestone offices to see designs for the project. While he said he was not opposed to development, he was taken aback by the size.

“It needs to be more sensitive to the scale and activity of this kind of neighborhood,” he said. “And respect the history, too.”

Bluestone’s Christian Christensen said he will divulge more detail during a neighborhood meeting on Oct. 24. But he confirmed the vision for a four-story, 134-unit building east of Saddle Creek generally between Pacific and Mason Streets.

In addition, a handful of small homes on the north side of Pacific Street between Saddle Creek and 48th would be demolished and replaced by a dozen three-story row houses (each with two units) designed by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture.

Christensen said his company designed the project so that traffic would enter and exit on to the Saddle Creek commercial corridor, not residential streets.

He plans to post progress reports on a website as Bluestone proceeds through the public process. He said he invited nearly 500 people to view the future website.

City Councilman Chris Jerram said it’s understandable that residents would have questions. The plan still is to be considered by the Omaha Planning Board and City Council.

Given the city’s master plan and objectives for midtown, Jerram said, he would be surprised if the project did not get approved. He said the area is in the midst of transformation due to growth of UNMC and other area employers.

“There is just an intense housing demand in midtown right now,” Jerram said. “I’m sure there will be more projects. Major employers continue to add jobs and add opportunities — people want to live close to where they work.”

Patrick Falke and his wife, Megan, lead the Morton Meadows neighborhood association. They said Bluestone representatives came to the association a couple of years ago when they began to buy properties, and Bluestone also asked to set up the meeting next week.

Meanwhile this past Sunday, a small group of residents met at the site, raising questions ranging from potential congestion of a corridor leading to a fire station to how construction could disrupt nap time or pose safety hazards to the neighborhood day care center. (Donna’s Little Darlings child care campus would remain at the corner of Pacific and Saddle Creek.)

“We hear the concerns,” Falke said, adding that they are valid. But he said city leaders typically favor such developments, so he prefers to influence the design by working with Bluestone., 402-444-1224

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Reporter - Money

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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