Our country has countless decades-old public housing developments, many of them in ailing physical condition. It’s encouraging to see that planning for the redevelopment of Southside Terrace, Omaha’s oldest and largest public housing complex, is proceeding on a sound foundation of outreach and trust-building with South Omaha residents.
Partner organizations — the City of Omaha, the Omaha Housing Authority and the nonprofit Canopy South — are holding community meetings to garner residents’ reaction to the concept plan for the redevelopment. Demolition and construction would begin at least several years from now, but the community response so far has been positive.
The partner organizations are gathering public feedback in preparing to submit a federal grant application.
Southside, built in 1940 on a nearly 10-block area of South Omaha, currently consists of 51 apartment buildings that are home to more than 1,200 residents.
Under the proposal, the redevelopment would proceed in phases, replacing the current barrack-style buildings with a mix of multifamily apartment buildings, duplexes and townhouses. Housing would be available for a variety of income levels: low-income households; market rate; and workforce housing, for people with moderate incomes.
Southside residents would benefit from creation of a conventional street grid to better connect residents with the surrounding neighborhood. Metropolitan Community College’s South Omaha campus is nearby, as is the Salvation Army Kroc Center.
The renovated Southside would have worthwhile amenities: a business incubator to promote local entrepreneurship; community gathering spaces; small playgrounds and an art-adorned plaza.
In short, residents would remain in a familiar location, retaining important local connections.
Organizations involved in this project will need to develop a workable plan, and communicate it clearly to residents, about where people will be relocated during the renovation. Plans also must include apartment space that will accommodate larger families. Residents have emphasized both those points in discussions thus far.
At this stage, the prospects appear promising for progress. “So far, so good,” said Sammie Jackson, president of the Southside Residents Association. “Right now, the plan that they have for Southside would be a big old game changer.”
Maintaining strong communications with Southside residents is one of the keys to making this ambitious project the community success it needs to be.
Renovation plans have sound ideas to maintain residents’ connections to the local neighborhood.