After $17 million revamp, two Omaha historic sites are set to open as affordable housing

By: - July 31, 2023 4:00 am

Georgia Row, built in 1890 in Queen Anne style architecture, is being restored and is set to reopen in August in the Park Avenue area west of downtown Omaha. Its 11 units of two- and three-bedroom apartments are reserved for people who make under a certain income level and rent is intended to be affordable. The nonprofit inCOMMON is also re-opening the renovated Hanscom Apartments complex behind Georgia Rows. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — In a $17 million renovation project years in the making, two historic structures, one built over 130 years ago, are ready to provide affordable housing in one of Omaha’s oldest and evolving neighborhoods.

Between the Georgia Row Apartments and adjacent Hanscom Apartments, 75 homes, including family-size dwellings, will be available to renters whose income falls within federal eligibility limits.

Built in 1921, the Hanscom Apartments are part of a $17 million restoration project turning two historic, yet worn, structures in the Park Avenue neighborhood of midtown Omaha into affordable housing. Hanscom is the original name of the complex that had for a time been called the Bristol. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

A goal of the nonprofit behind the venture,  inCOMMON Community Development, is to develop local leaders among residents of vulnerable neighborhoods, said co-director Christian Gray.

He said the revamped rental homes offer a way those emerging leaders can afford to stay in the Park Avenue area — even as private developers continue to bring higher-priced housing to that neighborhood between downtown and the job-magnet University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“We were seeing a lot of our neighbors displaced because of the unaffordability of housing in the area,” he said. 

Public financing tools used for the affordable housing venture include low-income housing tax credits, historic tax credits and tax-increment financing. Private philanthropic donations also helped, Gray said.

An Aug. 25 grand opening — starting at 5 p.m. at 1029 Park Ave. and including building tours and a free block party — comes as the State of Nebraska has increased its focus on affordable housing in part to meet a growing need for workers and workforce housing.

In a housing affordability action plan required of Nebraska cities by the Legislature, the City of Omaha reported that nearly 30,000 housing units are needed in Douglas County by 2030, and 60% of that need is for affordable units where housing and utility expenses cost no more than 30% of income. The report said about 7,000 rental units will need to be priced below $1,000 a month for households making less than $50,000.

We were seeing a lot of our neighbors displaced because of the unaffordability of housing in the area.

– Christian Gray, co-director of inCommon Community Development

Rent at the Georgia and Hanscom are to range from about $525 to $1,000, based on the size of the apartment, according to NP Dodge Management, which is managing the apartments for inCOMMON.

While the Georgia Row and Hanscom are separate addresses, they are situated back-to-back and will share amenities including a community room, library, fitness area and indoor bike storage, Gray said.

Built in 1890 in the Queen Anne style, the Georgia Row, at 1040 S. 29th St., contains 11 family-size units of two and three bedrooms. Its name was derived from Georgia Avenue, the original name for what is now 29th Street.

In addition to being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Georgia is designated an Omaha landmark and, according to nominations, was one of the more elaborate early rowhomes in Omaha, exhibiting the first level of rough-faced limestone.

The larger Hanscom, at 1029 Park Ave., was built in 1921 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and has earned a spot on the National Register. It contains 64 studio and one-bedroom units.

A small unit in the Hanscom apartments is shown during renovation process. (Courtesy of inCOMMON)

The apartments are within walking distance to inCOMMON’s neighborhood resource center, 1340 Park Ave., which provides residents access to programs including adult education, workforce development, youth programming and various neighborhood improvement efforts.

The official ribbon-cutting marks a lengthy renovation effort dating back to 2015 when inCOMMON bought the Hanscom — then called the Bristol apartments. Georgia Row was purchased the following year. 

The nonprofit and its team navigated through various governmental processes, including applying for housing tax credits administered by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority. COVID-19 added delays, Gray said.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said of reaching this point. 

While inCOMMON didn’t start off thinking about being a landlord, the projects are viewed as part of its effort to battle gentrification in the area, Gray said. He said the organization is proud of the quality of the rental housing, with finishes including hard wood floors, granite counters and stainless steel appliances.

NP Dodge is seeking past tenants of the Bristol (now the Hanscom) to see if they are interested in returning to the restored building to live, Gray said. 


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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.