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$1.1 million federal grant to revive neglected Omaha park is linked to new affordable housing

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$1.1 million federal grant to revive neglected Omaha park is linked to new affordable housing

Sep 22, 2023 | 10:00 am ET
By Cindy Gonzalez
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$1.1 million federal grant to revive neglected Omaha park is linked to new affordable housing
Description
Myott Park basketball hoop, looking east. The City of Omaha park has been neglected for years but is to be revived with help of a $1.1 million congressional community grant. When done, Myott Park is to include an amphitheater, picnic areas, pickleball and other sports courts. It is to be a social centerpiece of the under-construction Bluestem Prairie affordable housing area. (Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity/John Melingagio)

OMAHA — A $1.1 million federal grant announced Friday will help resurrect a long-neglected North Omaha park and mesh with a $25 million affordable housing development rising nearby.

$1.1 million federal grant to revive neglected Omaha park is linked to new affordable housing
Bluestem Prairie housing development can be seen in the background this week, from Myott Park. (Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity/John Melingagio)

Myott Park, near 52nd Street and Sorensen Parkway, is to expand and be revived with a new amphitheater, picnic pavilions, walking and cycling trails and courts for sports including pickleball and basketball.

Featuring a barrier-free design, it is to support families already living in the area as well as the new 85-home Bluestem Prairie subdivision under construction and led by Omaha Habitat for Humanity.

Before Bluestem Prairie, the housing site had been vacant for about 16 years following demolition of the troubled Wintergreen Apartments. Prior to being renamed Wintergreen, the nearly 300 housing units that opened there in 1975 were called Myott Park apartments.

The Myott Park apartments, as originally planned, were to be home to families of mixed incomes and racial backgrounds.

Set to open in fall 2024, the revamped parkland will retain the original name bestowed upon it in the mid-1970s after the developer turned over the property to the City of Omaha.

$25 million Bluestem Prairie residential pocket ready to sprout in North Omaha

Amanda Brewer, executive director of Omaha Habitat for Humanity, which typically builds or renovates in older neighborhoods, said it is fitting that the parkland where new generations will play is tied to its nostalgic past.

“People lived here, they made memories here,” she said. “We see North Omaha as a cultural oasis full of historic places and vibrant people, and  we always want to honor what came before.” 

Among other dignitaries at the groundbreaking event was a representative of U.S. Rep. Don Bacon’s office, Omaha Parks Director Matthew Kalcevich, City Councilwoman Juanita Johnson and private Habitat Omaha donor Stephanie Wernig, who is retired from Creighton University and contributing to the $1.5 million overall cost of the park project.

Habitat is to oversee the park revival and, afterward, the City of Omaha is to provide continuing maintenance and support. Parks representatives said that Myott’s last known playground renovations were in 1992, and the area essentially had been deteriorating and closed off since Wintergreen was razed.

$1.1 million federal grant to revive neglected Omaha park is linked to new affordable housing
Myott Park site plan (Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and Lamp Rynearson)

“Access to affordable housing is a critical issue and the work of Habitat for Humanity gives people hope, dignity and stability,” Bacon said, in a statement.

Habitat said Bacon’s office secured the $1.1 million in congressional community funding.

Bacon said he expects the overall housing project and its playground to “change lives and empower a new generation of homeowners within a framework of education and support to ensure the residents’ long-term success.”

Habitat acquired the former Wintergreen property for $1 from the City of Omaha. The bulk of the housing portion is to be covered by donors and the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund. City officials also approved tax-increment financing of $3.4 million. TIF is an economic development tool created by the Legislature.

“Just like having a safe, affordable place to live, nature and green space provide positive outcomes for our physical and mental health and well-being,” said Brewer. “Myott Park will add to the ‘humanity’ of these homes and connect them to other neighborhoods and the community.”

$1.1 million federal grant to revive neglected Omaha park is linked to new affordable housing
Bluestem Prairie near 52nd Street and Sorensen Parkway is starting to rise, looking northeast. (Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity/John Melingagio)