New purpose for 2 North O buildings -
Published Monday, April 23, 2012 at 12:01 am / Updated at 2:08 pm
New purpose for 2 North O buildings

Plans are coming together for two nonprofit redevelopment projects at separate locations in north Omaha.

Heartland Family Service has announced it will spend about $11 million renovating a longtime eyesore, Park Crest Apartments, located between the Omaha Home for Boys and Fontenelle Park, just south of Ames Avenue on about 48th Street.

Eight of the complex's nine buildings were demolished last year after they were deemed too expensive to rehabilitate. Heartland Family Service is turning the remaining building into a new home for recovering addicts who are mothers or expectant mothers.

Meanwhile, about a mile north, at 43rd and Fort Streets, the agency has teamed up with Holy Name Housing Corp. for another project, estimated at more than $15 million.

Their goal is to transform St. Richard School into a campus that will include an emergency children's center, an outpatient health clinic, a senior citizens center, 22 duplexes for low-income senior citizens, a greenhouse and a garden.

The projects will bring approximately $30 million in new investment to north Omaha, including a $3 million endowment for maintenance.

John Jeanetta, president and CEO of Heartland Family Service, said he hopes to secure 80 percent of the funding so construction can begin this fall. Work has begun on the duplexes at the St. Richard campus.

The goal is to finish both projects by 2014, Jeanetta said.

In 2010, the NorthStar Foundation purchased the Park Crest Apartments, which were notorious for criminal activity and had evolved into housing for the poor. The foundation leases the area east of the Omaha Home for Boys for a high-ropes course.

Jeanetta said Heartland Family Service subsequently purchased the building that wasn't torn down for its Family Works program, which provides substance abuse treatment for pregnant women and mothers.

The expanded program will provide housing for 32 families, more than tripling the size of the program, with 16 units for women in treatment and 16 units for women who have graduated from treatment.

Family Works is currently located in apartments leased on Park Avenue, but the space is too small and lacks transitional housing, Jeanetta said.

"If they have to go back to the place they came ... it doesn't bode well for their recovery," Jeanetta said.

He said it didn't make sense to demolish the Park Crest building, at 4842 Sprague St., because the structure of the five-story, 45-unit building is solid.

NorthStar Foundation operations manager Justin Snodgrass said the agency will find a use for the remaining land on 48th and Sahler Streets that's compatible with its mission of helping at-risk young men.

Last year the foundation helped set up a community garden to replace two of the buildings. This year will be the garden's first full season, and neighborhood gardeners are preparing the plot for planting.

"The garden was a success last year, and we're hoping to continue that and even grow on that and make it better," Snodgrass said.

Jeanetta said plans are also progressing for the St. Richard campus.

He said the nonprofit plans to link activities at the two locations as much as possible.

For example, seniors who live on the campus will be encouraged to volunteer in the emergency children's center, and women in the substance-abuse treatment program will work in a commercial kitchen in the school.

"Anything we can do to bring these populations together," Jeanetta said.

Most funds for the projects will be provided by low-income tax credits and other public funds.

St. Richard is included in a redevelopment area, near North 42nd Street and Sorensen Parkway, that soon will be voted on by the City Council.

If the council signs off on a "blighted and substandard" designation for the area, the St. Richard project could qualify for property tax incentives.

The nonprofit is also relying on $11 million in funding from private donors — about $4 million each for the Park Crest Apartment rehabilitation and the St. Richard project, plus the $3 million endowment for maintenance, Jeanetta said.

Jeanetta said the organization has some idea of how much money donors will give.

"If that happens, we should be able to hit our goal. If not, we may have to look at other creative ways to raise the funding," he said.

Contact the writer:

Contact the writer: Paige Yowell    |   402-444-1414    |  

Paige covers commercial development news primarily for the Money section's news blog, Money Talks.

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