Citizens’ Voices Heard: Omaha Performing Arts Ends Bid for Historic Buildings

16 Feb

Specht buildings - OWH

In a surprising turn of events, Omaha Performing Arts announced that they will no longer be pursuing their downtown property acquisition deal. They will leave the three century-old buildings untouched and no unnecessary parking garage will be constructed in their place.

In a press conference yesterday, Joan Squires, president of Omaha Performing Arts, said, “The planning process escalated in an effort to meet deadlines associated with HDR’s relocation and that did not give our organization enough time to meet with the community, arts partners, and others.”

Omaha Performing Arts did not comment at the public hearing at City Hall on February 9th. Their expansion plans – with an $11 million price tag – were undefined, leaving the public feeling dismayed that the Mayor and City Council could even consider, let alone support, such an inappropriate use of funds.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, Omaha Performing Arts tapped the brakes. Their decision to back off the highly controversial plans has brightened our city’s future and given hope that Omaha Performing Arts will grow in a more socially, environmentally, and financially responsible way.

Omaha now has a positive new example of an important actor in city development plans respecting the public’s views. Omaha Performing Arts listened to our requests for balancing sustainable urban growth, honoring our history, and building with public transportation options in mind.

“As a good community partner we agreed to sell our property as long as we could accommodate our long-term programming and educational needs and not reduce our level of patron services. In the end, the project became just too divisive,” said D. David Slosburg, member of the Board of Directors, Omaha Performing Arts.

We, along with Restoration Exchange Omaha and other civically-engaged citizens, congratulate Omaha Performing Arts for planning their expansion with integrity and calculated reason.

“As we look to the future, we still have plans to expand our programs and activities,” said Joan Squires. “However, these considerations take time – to thoughtfully consider all options, to engage our community and arts partners, and to evaluate how we can continue to serve our community and region.”

We applaud Omaha Performing Arts for their efforts to keep service to the community at the center of their business decision.

This historic moment for Omaha must be celebrated. Let’s make this triumph a lesson that our voices DO matter, despite what this issue’s obscure political process and agenda indicated. We hope Omaha Performing Arts’ example of listening to the people and upholding their core values of service to the community will light the path for future development decisions in Omaha.

Our March to City Hall on 2/23/2016 will be cancelled, due to the Omaha Performing Arts announcement. Instead, Mode Shift Omaha and Restoration Exchange Omaha are planning a party to celebrate our victory! Stay tuned for details.

One Response to “Citizens’ Voices Heard: Omaha Performing Arts Ends Bid for Historic Buildings”

  1. dirk February 16, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

    glad that whatever their internal reasons/calculations they won’t continue to be part of this particular land-grab scheme, congrats to all that showed them what being associated with such kleptocratic maneuvers would look like for them.
    I see the mayor is now claiming some kind of bizarro world victory in the city no longer ‘having’ to spend our millions without ever owning that we only had to do so because she decided that we would, which sadly points to there being no shift in the planning process by the city, so more work to be done there.
    Is anyone talking to OPA about how this ““However, these considerations take time – to thoughtfully consider all options, to engage our community and arts partners” could happen in ways that work better for all involved?
    thanks to all for yer efforts, ever onward.

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