Job Opening at Mode Shift Omaha

25 Nov 12032683_916311355130317_4143366703987254943_o

Mode Shift Omaha is seeking a part-time Program Coordinator to help lead and grow the organization.

As an independent contractor, the Program Coordinator will play a critical role in supporting existing Mode Shift Omaha programs and operations that enable us to advocate for transportation options that enhance quality of life and opportunities to live, work, and play. We do this through education and engagement with members and the public, monitoring transportation plans and policies, and influencing activities and decision-making related to transportation.

The Program Coordinator will primarily support the Board related to communications and fund development.

If you feel passionate about our mission and the work we do, we’d love to hear from you!

>> Click here to download the full job description

Mode Shift Omaha is committed to diversity and inclusion. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, political orientation or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law. We value having diverse staff, volunteers, and members in all of these areas, as well as in transportation mode preference.

Why We’re Involved in Saving Historic Buildings

20 Nov

We’ve been asked at least a few times why we’re so interested and involved in the current activities surrounding the apparent Omaha Performing Arts plans to demolish three historic buildings in order for them to construct what they’re calling “mixed use” space. We aren’t preservationists, after all. As such, we thought it might be a good idea to set the record straight before the rally this Sunday.

There are generally three reasons why we’re involved.

Reason #1: We don’t need more parking downtown.

OPA’s originally announced plan was to demolish the historic buildings in order to construct a parking garage. They’ve since changed their tune on that a bit and are planning “mixed use” to include several uses, including an estimated 500 parking stall garage.

There is more than ample parking downtown. A 2014 City of Omaha parking study showed there are 41,063 parking spaces in downtown Omaha. Of that number, approximately 56% of the total parking spaces are used during typical peak weekday and 45% during typical peak weekday evening.

Holland Parking

There are several parking options within a 10 minute walk around the Holland. Some are publicly available, and some are only for private use. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to look at just how much parking exists near the Holland.

In examining the area immediately around the Holland, there is a 1,300 stall City-owned lot immediately across the street and several other surface lots and garages (plus two new garages coming at the HDR and Capitol District developments) within a ten minute walk (see image at right).

Yes, it’s true that some are privately owned, but if the entire downtown system were properly managed and those private garages (often primarily used from 8 – 5 weekdays) were made available to the public during their off-hours, suddenly we might be more efficient with those garages and have less of a perceived need to build more. Said differently, we can increase supply by managing our current infrastructure better rather than adding new infrastructure that doesn’t add to the vitality of downtown.

Reason #2: Historical buildings create a great sense of place.

Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of Spur in San Francisco, recently spoke in Omaha, and he highlighted ten lessons for urban success. Lesson #8 is Celebrate Your History. Historic buildings often create a far more enjoyable sense of place, especially if they’re nicely mixed with great new design. They provide a much more interesting environment, which means it facilitates a more walkable neighborhood.

Walkability is extremely important to the success of the urban environment, a point made very clear by Jeff Speck in his book Walkable City. And an architecturally interesting place creates a more enjoyable, interesting walk for those on foot.

Reason #3: The City is giving away too much.

OPA is selling their surface lot to HDR for $3 million. Meanwhile, the City of Omaha will use redevelopment funds to pay the current historic building owners a total of $10 million for the properties. The City will then turn around and give them to OPA for free. For free. No strings attached. Why should OPA receive such a generous gift from the City with no expectation for what happens with the land? Are there not other nonprofits worthy of such a gift?

Wrapping Up.
We hope that HDR’s excellent design team can lead OPA through a thoughtful exercise to examine their current and future needs with a goal to retain and nicely integrate all four buildings and their current uses. We would also like to see the City of Omaha lead an effort to create a broader vision for the entire area (North Downtown, Capitol District, Gene Leahy Mall, Old Market…then drifting over to the riverfront).

Finally, we hope that OPA and other downtown stakeholders are exploring ways in which they can support and encourage people to use means other than driving (walk, bike, ride the bus, skateboard, carpool, etc.) to get to work or out for entertainment. Dedicating so much space to parking isn’t a valuable use of land, and it doesn’t foster a vibrant atmosphere downtown.

All in all, getting HDR downtown is extremely important, but we mustn’t sell our souls in order to make that happen. Isn’t that what what we did when we demolished Jobber’s Canyon in order to attract ConAgra downtown?

If you agree, please consider taking action.

Rally at the Specht. Sunday, 11/22 at 2pm.

Write to your City Council member and the Mayor.

Write to OPA.

Take Action to Prevent Our City’s History from being Overrun by Parking

8 Nov 12182993_936759109752208_7085380429367054185_o

As you may have read in the news, Omaha Performing Arts (OPA) has indicated it wants to tear down three historic buildings to make room for parking next to the Holland Center. The Mayor announced on Thursday that the City of Omaha plans to spend $10 million to acquire three buildings at 11th and Douglas Streets, clearing the way for HDR Inc. to build a new headquarters on a surface lot that is primarily owned by OPA. The City will then give these properties to OPA, which operates the Holland Center.

It’s extremely disappointing that yet more of our downtown spaces—including beautiful historic-designated buildings and the businesses in them–are being sacrificed for parking that we already have in excess downtown. OPA’s desire for more parking is completely misguided; there is a City-owned parking garage with 1,300 stalls directly across the street from the Holland, and it’s empty most evenings.

It’s also problematic that such back-room deals and $10 million giveaways go on while city plans and policies are seemingly ignored. We aspire to have a city wherein important decisions are not made by a few uber-wealthy and influential people through strong-arm, secretive tactics. This city’s citizens deserve transparency.

While we agree that HDR’s presence downtown is important, OPA’s desire to demolish buildings for more parking is not good. The fight is not over. Approvals still need to occur and there are places in the process in which we can intervene.

Ultimately, our desire is that OPA slow down a bit. This doesn’t seem to be a question of OPA’s future needs or even the retention of historic buildings. It’s a question of providing a compelling vision for the future of our downtown; the Gene Leahy Mall (Central Park Mall), the linkages to the river, North Downtown, and the Old Market and how public transit can shape our city. We implore OPA to help envision this broader future before removing parts of our history that can’t ever be replaced.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Attend Rally: We are partnering with Restoration Exchange Omaha (REO) on a rally aimed at convincing OPA that their misguided desire to raze Omaha’s history in order to build a parking garage is not in our City’s best interest. Please join us on Sunday, 11/22 at 2pm just outside of the Specht Building. (We’ll be welcoming those attending the 3pm show at the Holland Center.). See the Facebook event here.

  • Write: To OPA directly and/or post on their Facebook page and encourage them to find a better solution than bulldozing buildings to build more parking. REO has sent out some great talking points to consider. There will also be a letter/postcard writing party at the Omaha Bicycle Company and Krug Park from 5-7pm on November 13.

  • Sign: REO’s Save the Specht petition.

  • Volunteer to be part of the MSO response team on this issue. Email