51st & Mayberry Smart Development Moving Forward

5 Feb

Bluestone Development is planning its largest new development northwest of 51st & Mayberry. At this site, Bluestone proposes to build three buildings containing 193 market-rate apartments. All but 35 parking spaces will be built inside the enclosed property space. Providing market-rate housing for young professionals in an area that is often difficult to access is the goal for the project.

At the Omaha Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, February 3rd, Mode Shift Omaha’s new Program Coordinator, Michaela Brown, stated our strong support for Bluestone’s plans at 51st and Mayberry. The board voted 7-0 in support of the plans.

Smart Growth Details

An important component of Mode Shift Omaha’s advocacy is promoting land use policies that allow for denser development, which makes active and public transportation a more likely and more enjoyable choice. Mode Shift Omaha views the 51st & Mayberry project as sensitive, appropriate infill development in a neighborhood that is zoned to allow as much.

The waivers Bluestone Development is seeking are driven by minimum parking requirements that are seen by most sophisticated growing cities as hindrances to walkable development. We applaud Bluestone and the City for finding a public/private solution wherein the project is not over-building parking.

Traffic engineers said that although the future level of service at 51st and Leavenworth would sink at peak afternoon travel times, many Omaha intersections are at the same level at peak times.

51st & Mayberry mock upOther reasons to be excited about these smart growth plans include: the proposed site is adjacent to the 20-mile bike loop and within a block of transit and the property is zoned R8, which allows for an even larger development than they’re planning. Note: It’s adjacent to the 22-story Elmwood Tower.

Finally, this project aligns with several planning documents within the city, such as the Environmental Element (which calls for increased density), the Transportation Master Plan (which calls for improved access to transit), and the city’s newly adopted Infill Guidelines (which pave the way for sensitive, appropriate infill such as this).

Now the issue goes to the City Council.

The Opposition

About 20 neighbors attended the Planning Board meeting to oppose the project. The neighbors asked the Planning Board to delay the vote to allow them more time to share their opinions with Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development.

Larry Jobeun, a Bluestone lawyer, stated at the Planning Board meeting that Christensen has already attended several meetings with the neighbors and made multiple compromises on the project – on the building height, total number of apartments, parking, and design materials.

The neighbors also wanted an extension on the Planning Board’s decision so they could perform an independent traffic study to verify the study done by the traffic engineers hired by Bluestone.

What’s Next

The City Council must approve the project. We need your support to secure the vote for smart infill development in Omaha that would lead toward increased active transportation. We will keep you informed of when the Council will hear the case and advise on purposeful next steps.

5 Responses to “51st & Mayberry Smart Development Moving Forward”

  1. knudsonappraisal February 6, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    It doesn’t appear that this project has been given enough thought in regards to traffic. Have you tried turning left or right from 51st street onto Leavenworth? Ever? At 8:00? At 5:30? It’s bad. Adding 200 people without changing the infrastructure is just insane. What are you thinking? Clearly not about the quality of life of the many people that live in this neighborhood. Clearly not about their property values. Please take a minute to think about them.
    If you argue that this area is already zoned for this you are not taking into account the residents that live there- older retirees. They don’t drive at peak times and many don’t drive much or at all. Those residents are very different than the ones who will lease your proposed apartments.

    • modeshiftomaha February 7, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

      Thanks for your comments.

      We want to clarify that we are not proposing these apartments. They are a project of Bluestone Development.

      In addition, it is our understanding that the City’s Public Works Department has reviewed 51st & Leavenworth and did not see a traffic concern and that a traffic study has been performed that concluded no additional offsite modifications are needed.

      There is a science to traffic and how it works; there are not simple one-to-one correlations that if X happens or not, Y results or not. More density does not necessarily lead to more traffic, especially if people have more options for biking/walking/transit. In addition, efforts to reduce congestion can also mean tradeoffs—wider roads can lead to more traffic (through induced demand) and faster speeds, raising safety issues. For example, most of the day, except for perhaps 30-60 minutes during peak travel times, Leavenworth is not congested and subsequently turns into a dangerous speedway for those living along the street or trying to bicycle or walk along it.

      If we want to minimize traffic congestion more broadly, while also keeping our roads safe for all users, we need to do more to provide viable transportation options in the city. This project supports the land use design needed to support a more robust transportation system that would help to reduce car congestion. There is a need for the design elements and density to support biking/walking/transit combined with transportation demand management efforts.

      • dirk February 8, 2016 at 9:27 am #

        our efforts at modeling traffic generally don’t consider differing kinds of drivers that might be highly concentrated in any particular development (like the dorms at the end of my block) so it’s not a simple matter nor a settled one, that said we need to go with our best estimates (are the cities methods open for public review/input) but it would be better if the city/builders committed to being responsible for fixing any unexpected outcomes that might hurt the living standards of residents.

        http://onpoint.wbur.org/2016/02/08/rent-is-too-damn-high

      • Mindy Hunke February 8, 2016 at 11:08 am #

        I am not opposed to the new development in my neighborhood. In fact, I can see many, many benefits and am rather excited to see it happen. This article seems to have a slight dismissive tone towards neighbors and their traffic concerns.

        Maybe other intersections have the same level of traffic during rush hour but they don’t have the same configuration or issues.

        There IS a traffic bottleneck at 51st and Leavenworth and just south of there. At a minimum, the curbs at 51st & Leavenworth need to be cut back. Hitting the edge of the curb trying to turn right from Leavenworth to head south during rush hour is common. This is because the road is narrow and people waiting to turn from 51st onto Leavenworth can’t always hug the east curb. During rush hour it is easy to get rear ended heading eastbound on Leavenworth when slowing to turn. I’ve seen it happen. This could put all of the new pedestrians at risk too.

        I am thrilled that this infill project will help bolster the area with increased public transportation users, bicyclists and youthful energy, but traffic study or not, driving at that corner can be dangerous. More cars, bikes and pedestrians could mean increased risk for all who navigate the area.

        I encourage you to try driving or walking that corner during rush hour for one week so that you gain some personal understanding of what those neighbors are saying.

        Perhaps there is a plan for Bluestone or the City to rebuild that corner and put in a light? If there is, then I have far less worry. If there isn’t, then the nearby neighbors do have a legitimate traffic concern. I’m sure that so many creative people can come up with a quality solution to this issue. Neighbors directly across the street still won’t be happy to look upon construction and apartments instead of the current greenspace, but they shouldn’t have to worry about the danger of traversing their street.

        I hope that someone will consider making that corner and the first two blocks safer for everyone and their preferred mode of transportation.

      • modeshiftomaha February 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

        Thanks Mindy for your comments. We certainly did not mean to be dismissive of any concerns but are trying to lay out the information as it is available. We’re also trying to track down the actual traffic study as well to share that information. It sounds like it would be helpful for you to contact Omaha Public Works with your observations as well. Ultimately, we’d like to see improvement in the ways in which the City engages citizens around these topics.

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