Omaha officials greenlight the ‘Digs’ apartment project despite neighbor objections

By: - August 1, 2023 8:30 pm

A 188-unit apartment complex is to rise southeast of 31st and Marcy Streets, on a 1.5-acre area to the left of this side street. A few houses will be demolished to make way. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — The controversial Digs housing project, which spotlighted parking concerns and growing pains of a redefining urban core, is moving forward after a vote of approval Tuesday by the Omaha City Council.

The governing body of Nebraska’s largest city also supported the developer’s request for $4.1 million in public tax-increment financing.

Under developer Uptown Properties’ plan, the Digs market-rate apartment complex will span 1.5 acres in a residential pocket southeast of 31st and Marcy Streets — just south of the Leavenworth Street corridor. It’s in an area increasingly popular due largely to proximity to downtown and the growing University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The heartburn for opponents was parking.

$46 million ‘Digs’ project fuels debate about parking squeeze in Omaha’s urban core

Uptown Properties planned to provide 147 parking spaces for the 188-unit complex, which is to contain 239 bedrooms.

The City Planning Department supported that less-than-standard amount of stalls because the site is in the urban core and within about eight blocks of the Metro Transit-led ORBT and future Omaha streetcar routes.

At the Tuesday meeting, Uptown’s Steven Held told council members that his team was considering new ways to help alleviate concerns of neighbors, who fear they’ll be left scrounging for a parking spot on already crowded side streets.

Among those ways is an open parking concept in which the developer over-leases its parking with the idea that at any given time not all will be occupied. 

Held said he might also offer an onsite car service that would be available to give residents a ride to the grocery store or elsewhere.

Throughout the last few weeks of debate on the project, the development team has said many people in its target audience— young professionals who work in the urban core — don’t want the expense or environmental concerns of a car. They said that clientele turns to public transportation or various other modes.

Councilman Danny Begley cast the opposing vote, sticking to his concern that the project and its parking design did not suit the neighborhood. The Digs is in Begley’s council district.

Councilman Brinker Harding, echoing comments from city planners, said developable land within Douglas County is running low, with 20 or so years “left on that clock.” He said the city needs to find ways to build density. 

“There are some cultural changes that we will be challenged with here in Omaha that we have to be real about,” Harding said. “Density is certainly one of those issues. If we want to continue to grow our city and maintain the level of services … that’s the reality we live in.”

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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.