In the early 1990’s City leaders came together to clean up and transform the former Union Pacific rail yard, ASARCO lead smelter and other industrial tracts north of the downtown core. The result was the creation of a burgeoning mixed-use area with a gleaming riverfront, new arena/convention center, downtown ballpark and the construction of over $850M in new public and private facilities.
Even with these investments the 450-acre North Downtown study area contains room for more development. A 2009 Downtown Master Plan identified three development “districts” within the area. These include; an “Events” district anchored by the arena/convention center, hotel, and ballpark; a “North Downtown” mixed-use district with a music venue, art film theater, residential units, hotels, shops, restaurants, creative small businesses and numerous potential development sites; and an “Arts and Trades” district that includes an artist cooperative and a variety of creative businesses along with industrial and warehousing uses.
The overall area has a number of positive attributes including its proximity to Eppley Airfield, easy interstate access, major public event venues, nearby Creighton University, a growing collection of creative businesses, a proposed streetcar line and numerous potential redevelopment sites. In addition, the right mix of new businesses could also provide jobs in close proximity to nearby high unemployment areas. Even so, growth has not been as rapid as hoped. Limited riverfront connections, conflicts with remaining industrial businesses and truck traffic, environmental constraints, large surface parking lots and a lack of focus pose development challenges.