UNMC declares interest in ‘second phase’ of Omaha streetcar route

By: - November 8, 2023 7:28 pm

UNMC buildings viewed through the shell of the former Omaha Steel Works, which is being transformed into the Catalyst project west of Saddle Creek Road near Farnam Street. The facility is envisioned as a medical industry innovation hub. The Omaha streetcar route is not planned to reach this far west, but UNMC said it has given the city a proposal to create a second phase that could involve this developing area. Photo was shot in May 2023. (Courtesy of Kent Sievers, University of Nebraska Medical Center)

OMAHA — The University of Nebraska Medical Center said Wednesday it is interested in participating in a second phase of Omaha’s modern streetcar project, one that could take the streetcar route west onto UNMC’s growing campus.

UNMC responded to the Nebraska Examiner in a statement, saying that its leadership has provided the City of Omaha with a proposal “to create a second phase to extend the streetcar.”

An example of what a modern streetcar looks like. Omaha’s design, color and other details will depend on the chosen manufacturer. Bids are to be opened Jan. 24, with selection of a carmaker expected in February. (Courtesy of CAF)

Medical center leaders believe that such an extension could be funded by public tax-increment financing. UNMC officials offered no timeline and declined to answer more specific questions on the streetcar topic.

Tax-increment financing, a Legislature-approved economic development tool, is how Omaha plans to cover the $300 million-plus streetcar construction costs. Essentially under TIF, increased property tax revenue generated on new commercial development can be used to pay a developer’s loan.

“UNMC leaders have provided the city with a draft plan to create a second phase to extend the streetcar, which would be supported by additional TIF funding opportunities as the Saddle Creek property expansion looks to incorporate private business and residential properties,” said UNMC, Nebraska’s only public academic health science center. 

Omaha streetcar route to shrink several blocks, to accommodate possible extensions

The medical center was asked to respond following revelations Tuesday that Omaha’s streetcar route, at least initially, could be shortened to end at 39th and Farnam Streets on the west rather than the previously planned 42nd and Farnam Streets.

That is among recommendations in an early design plan approved by the City Planning Board. The 30% design plan is headed next week to the Urban Design Review Board. 

Mayor Jean Stothert and Streetcar Authority Chair Jay Noddle said the route change would allow UNMC to further evaluate if and how the streetcar might interact with the UNMC midtown grounds, including its developing property west of Saddle Creek Road.

Stothert said during the news conference that UNMC would pay the bill if the streetcar were extended west beyond 39th Street and onto the medical center campus.

Much construction and growth is taking place on the UNMC campus, particularly on about 30 acres it has acquired west of Saddle Creek Road.

An official groundbreaking ceremony was held Oct. 31, 2023, for the CORE (Campus Operations & Research Excellence) Building, set to rise on southwest corner of Saddle Creek Road and Farnam Street. (Courtesy of the University of Nebraska Medical Center)

About a week ago, construction officially kicked off on an anchor six-story administration and research facility known as the CORE building, southwest of Saddle Creek and Farnam Street. It will rise near the sprawling $65 million Catalyst innovation hub that will include businesses, a food hall and more.

UNMC officials have said they expect more new commercial and residential development in that area, which they call the west campus.

Another newly recommended streetcar route change, officials said, calls for the northeast terminus to be at 10th Street and Capitol Avenue rather than the earlier planned 10th and Cass Streets farther north.

They said that was to allow for options for future extensions into North Omaha. The city has applied for a federal grant to study an extension to North Omaha and possibly toward the airport.

The streetcar is to be up and running in 2027. 





This is an earlier Omaha streetcar route map — before new recommendations to end at 39th and Farnam Streets on the west and 10th Street and Capitol Avenue on the north in first phase of construction. (Courtesy of Omaha Streetcar Authority)


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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.