A dilapidated building on North 24th Street will enter its second act after renovations transform the space into a theater.
The $6.4 million project is on track to move forward after the Omaha City Council’s approval Tuesday of $354,672 in tax-increment financing.
Planned renovations will allow for expansion of the Union for Contemporary Art’s performing arts program and breathe new life into a building that has served the North Omaha community for more than 100 years.
Under the proposal presented to the City Council, the 4,392-square-foot building near 24th Street and Willis Avenue will be renovated for use as a black box theater — a simple, open space with black walls, flooring and ceiling.
The theater will bear the name of Shirley Tyree, who served on the Omaha Public Schools board for 20 years.
In her free time, Tyree enjoyed singing and acting in community theater. She died of blood cancer in January 2021 at age 82.
Plans call for the building to be outfitted with a theater, lobby, ticketing area, set design workshop and a rehearsal or gathering space. Officials plan to add about 4,300 square feet to the east end of the existing building.
The Union for Contemporary Art has a theater at its main location, which is nearby. But with capacity limited to 40 people, many would-be theatergoers are turned away. The new theater would seat 90 to 100 people.
The Union’s performing arts program has been producing live theater in North Omaha since 2016.
“We are ever so excited to be able to provide more of these opportunities not only for our emerging artists here in Omaha, but also for all of our well seasoned artists who may have been overlooked by major institutions in the past,” said Denise Chapman, the Union’s artistic director.
Council member Juanita Johnson, whose district includes the new theater, said she is happy to see the project move forward.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this is going to be an economic value to North Omaha and Omaha as a whole,” Johnson said.
The building that will soon house the theater dates to 1914 and most recently was used as a preschool. The space has sat vacant for more than three years. It will need to be treated for mold, lead paint and asbestos.
Union will lease the building, which is owned by RH Land Management, for 20-plus years.
Through the TIF allocation, the developer of a city-approved project takes out a loan to help cover eligible redevelopment expenses. The loan is paid back, generally over a 15-year or 20-year period, by using the increased property taxes that are generated on the new development.
All of the property taxes collected on the improved property start flowing to those local governments after the TIF loan is repaid.
Officials hope to complete construction by summer 2023.
The Union For Contemporary Art announced that they are going to turn the F.J. Carey Block building into the Shirley Tyree Theater. The project also plans to preserve the historic architecture of the building.