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Back in the day, Aug. 16, 2016: Demolition of Civic Auditorium begins

Back in the day, Aug. 16, 2016: Demolition of Civic Auditorium begins

Demolition began five years ago today on Omaha’s 62-year-old Civic Auditorium, which for generations had been the scene of political rallies, graduation ceremonies, concerts and sporting events.

“The plan is for the building to be completely down by around Christmastime,” said Brook Bench, who was Omaha’s Parks and Recreation director at the time. 

In February 2016, the Omaha City Council voted to approve a $3.1 million contract with Illinois-based DeNovo Constructors Inc. to demolish the building. But the project stalled in March after the contractor ran into financial problems.

DeNovo stopped work at the site on March 3, 2016, and the city ended the contract and made a claim to the bonding company.

Spirtas Wrecking Co., based in St. Louis, was selected to perform the demolition instead. The company that held the bond chose Spirtas to replace DeNovo.

Workers from Lincoln-based company New Horizons completed removal of asbestos from the downtown Omaha arena, concert hall and exhibition space one week before demolition started.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced in August 2014 that the city had selected Tetrad Property Group’s proposal for redeveloping the area, from 17th to 19th Streets and Chicago Street to Capitol Avenue.

Tetrad planned to partner with Iowa-based NuStyle Development Corp., which has redeveloped numerous downtown Omaha buildings into residences and business space. The developers planned to work with architecture and engineering firm HDR Inc. and with Kiewit Building Group.

In 2018, Tetrad pulled out of that agreement, in part over a dispute about incentives.

Stothert then announced in May of this year that the city had signed an agreement to sell the property to a development group called Civic Corner. The group is being led by White Lotus Group, an Omaha company with a history of developing local large-scale projects.

A key focus of the redevelopment plan is on housing. Civic Corner plans to build a mix of 268 market-rate and 120 mixed-income apartments on about 6 acres, the largest part of the property.

A future phase of the development on the remaining land could be used for shops, businesses and public space.

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