vinton news

vinton street selected as site of pilot project

OMAHA – In the early 1900s, Vinton Street was a commercial hub, providing locals with the goods and services necessary for life in a growing community. Its one- and two-story brick buildings, built between 1890 and 1923, reflect a mixture of architectural styles.

Today, the area is the site of a new pilot project aimed at encouraging the preservation and economic vitality of Omaha’s historic neighborhoods. Omaha by Design, in partnership with the City of Omaha and local stakeholders, has launched the Vinton Street Project. It will combine the use of traditional historic preservation tools with one of the city’s recently enhanced urban design tools – the Neighborhood Conservation and Enhancement (NCE) Overlay District – to give property owners more options for preserving the character of the Vinton Street corridor. The specific project area will be determined as the project progresses but will, at a minimum, encompass the existing Vinton Street National Register District.

“Anyone who’s ever eaten at Louie M’s Burger Lust Café understands the vibe of the neighborhood, which is reflected in its building types and orientation,” said Connie Spellman, director of Omaha by Design. “We will fund the creation of a Historic NCE Overlay District in the Vinton Street neighborhood to help preserve and enhance its unique character.”

The NCE Overlay District allows the City of Omaha – in cooperation with neighborhood property owners – to identify those physical characteristics of an area that a neighborhood feels are of special importance and create “form-based” regulations to preserve and protect those features. Since the NCE concept was enhanced in 2007, two Omaha neighborhoods – Dundee and S. 10th Street – have stepped up to create NCE Overlay Districts that indirectly address aspects of their area’s historic character.

The NCE Overlay District provides great flexibility in the development of form-based guidelines for both older and newer areas of the city, said Jed Moulton, manager of urban design in the city’s planning department.

Omaha by Design has hired a consultant team, Jensen Consulting, to work with the city’s planning department to develop the district. Omaha by Design will serve as the project manager, and the planning department will be responsible for the formal approval and administration of the district.

A stakeholder committee made up of property owners, neighborhood representatives and other community leaders is being formed to help guide the process. In the coming weeks:

  • A detailed physical survey covering public spaces, building forms and massing, and architectural styles and ornamentation will be conducted.
  • A catalogue that provides a visual, comprehensive breakdown of the neighborhood’s physical characteristics will be created. It also will contain a complete checklist of the physical features that could be included in the overlay district regulations.
  • A Historic NCE Overlay District Guidebook will be created that outlines the process and procedures for other neighborhoods to follow in the future.
  • Workshops will be held for the neighborhood’s property owners to present the survey findings and discuss the catalogue content. The first workshop will focus on informing the local stakeholders about the characteristics that make their neighborhood unique and why they are important to protect. The second workshop will focus on identifying the particular features they want to include in the Historic NCE Overlay District for protection and regulation.
  • The consultant will work in partnership with the city’s planning department throughout the entire process, culminating in the creation of the actual Historic NCE Overlay District and its regulations. The district will then be presented to the Omaha Planning Board and the Omaha City Council for their respective consideration.

“Having the opportunity to establish a model historic district along and surrounding Vinton Street is electric to say the least,” said Omaha City Councilman Garry Gernandt, who represents the area. “Not only is it the right move but long overdue. Let’s forge on, Deer Park neighbors.”

The project dovetails with the Greater Omaha Chamber’s community development efforts under way in the area. Karen Mavropoulos, community development manager for the chamber, said the South Omaha Development Project Master Plan has identified the Vinton Street corridor as a viable commercial center. The revitalization of Vinton Street is currently a top priority for the chamber’s community development division, with multiple projects under way.

During 2011, the chamber conducted several “Your Vision for Vinton” meetings focusing on the revitalization of Vinton Street and also helped revive the Vinton Street Merchants Association. Simultaneous to these efforts, a neighborhood business district analysis has been completed, and the group is now in the process of putting together a façade improvement program and choosing a catalyst project on the corridor to help increase investment in the area and speed the revitalization process. “There’s great momentum on Vinton Street, and many groups are working together to make it a thriving commercial corridor,” Mavropoulos said. “This Historic NCE project will nicely complement all that is being done.”

The goal is to have the Vinton Street Historic NCE Overlay District developed by this spring with adoption in mid to late summer, Spellman said.

“It will be invaluable to have a resource that helps identify and explain the historic features that make the area so unique,” said Anne Trumble, executive director of Emerging Terrain at 1717 Vinton St. “We look forward to utilizing these resources as we work to preserve and improve our piece of the Vinton Street Historic District.”

The project is the outgrowth of work conducted by Omaha by Design’s Conservation, Preservation and Restoration (CPR) Committee, which was formed to begin looking at what role the organization could play in augmenting existing preservation efforts in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro. The goal of the committee, which stems from the Civic Omaha section of the city’s Urban Design Element, is to bring an urban design perspective to issues affecting the region’s built heritage by analyzing the existing environment and developing an appropriate set of strategies for programs, projects and policies that promote its conservation, preservation and restoration.

For more information about the Vinton Street Project, contact Omaha by Design at 402.934.7055 or info@omahabydesign.org. For more information about Omaha by Design’s CPR Committee, visit http://www.omahabydesign.org/projects/urban-design-element/civic-omaha/cpr.