April 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about living Downtown is just how similar it can be to living in the suburbs.

“I wanted a garden. I’ve always been a big gardener,” Judi Torneten says when asked why her family chose their Rows at SoMa townhouse. “When Steve showed me this place, it didn’t take a lot of convincing. The garden is right outside our door.” After a moment of thought, she adds, “And we’re a block from the farmers market where we get fresh produce.”

The Torneten family consists of Steve, Judi, and their young daughter Jolena. Their three-level home includes a two-car garage connected to the main floor, a fireplace, a patio, and a rooftop deck.

“I like that it’s convenient,” Judi shares. “We’re really busy people, and when we were deciding that we should move Downtown, I counted how many times we had been Downtown in a month. It was ridiculous. We do 80 percent of our activities down here.”

Steve works Downtown as a realtor and loves the convenience of being able to walk to both his work and his appointments. “There are days that I don’t even drive my car,” he says. Judi teaches nearby at Omaha Public Schools while Jolena attends school not far from home. Additionally, Judi sings with Opera Omaha. “It’s easy to get to rehearsals. They’re all Downtown,” she says with a laugh.

But while moving Downtown was an easy decision for the Torneten family, it wasn’t an easy task. “The biggest thing about moving to a condo or townhome from a house is that you have to get rid of a lot of stuff,” Steve admits. “But it’s incredibly liberating to throw all that stuff away.”

An added convenience to living in their unit is the ease of taking care of their property. “I was excited about doing yard work for about the first five years of owning a home,” Judi recalls of their previous residences in Field Club and Bellevue. “After that, we were just paying someone to do our lawn, so it was kind of silly to have one.”

The family doesn’t have to shovel snow, mow grass, or even pick weeds. “Plus, this whole complex is probably the most organic,green-friendly landscape you’ll ever get living Downtown,” Steve says, adding that the company that cares for their grounds, Squeaky Clean Organics, doesn’t even use a motorized lawn mower.

While it’s easy to imagine adults finding fulfillment living near such a vibrant part of Omaha, what could there possibly be for an 8-year-old like Jolena to enjoy? “It’s amazing,” Steve responds. “But I think that there’s more for kids to do down here than there is in the suburbs. We walk. We go on family bike rides. She goes to The Rose Theater or takes acting classes. She takes drawing classes with local artists. There’s just so much.”

And while the family can’t pinpoint just one favorite restaurant or shop, one thing is certain. “It is great to be able to walk to Ted and Wally’s,” Judi concludes with a grin.

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