July 23, 2014 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

When newly engaged Ryan Ratigan and fiancé Khilah Butler decided that their downtown apartment wasn’t cutting it any more, most might assume a move out west was in order.  Not for these two.

Butler happened to have attended the Young Professionals Summit put on by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The event featured a tour of South Omaha given by artist Larry Ferguson, a photographer whose studio is on Vinton Street. She knew she was on to something.

“We knew we wanted to look at the Vinton area,” says Butler. “It has a true neighborhood feel.”

Ratigan agreed that the area’s rich cultural history makes for a unique neighborhood vibe. And the location was a bit away from the bustle of downtown while still being close to the heart of the city.
Butler is a manager at the First National Bank contact center while Ratigan is an attorney. His office is located downtown, but he also often works from home.

After surveying the area for possible houses the couple found their home in The Cottages, situated between Vinton, Spring, 21st, and 22nd streets.

“There are only three stoplights between here and Downtown,” says Ratigan. “You can’t beat that.”

The Cottages were recently purchased by Harvest Development and endured an extreme facelift. Built in the 1890s, the homes were originally used for immigrant meat packers, mostly Korean, working in the stockyards.

According to Autumn Gibson, the director of property management, about half of the 20 rental homes are still up for grabs at the just-opened Cottages.

“We are hoping to entice those who are interested in not only a more urban feel, but also in being a part of the revival of Vinton Street,” Gibson says.

The homes are 1½ stories and can be found in several sizes. Though the homes have been redone from top to bottom, they still evoke a bygone era.

“I like that it’s an older home,” says Ratigan, “but they kept all the original hard wood floors and charm. You can tell that there is great respect for the area that is being preserved.”

The young couple was also looking for outdoor space. The two try to spend as much time as they can hiking and camping; spending weekends by the Platte River, at Indian Cave State Park, and at Hitchcock Park.

Their two-bedroom, two-bath home comes complete with both front and back decks, plus a shared green space. Now they don’t have to hop in the car to become one with nature.

“It’s much more peaceful here and we have a spot to sit outside,” adds Butler.

It comes as no surprise that younger families are finding their way to the Vinton area. It is in a time of revival, says Ferguson. Harvest Development’s renovation of The Cottages and the new families moving in are only part of something much bigger. His studio has been on 17th and Vinton since 1983, and Ferguson has spent the last 30 years watching the area grow.

“When I arrived in the 1980s, Vinton was dead,” Ferguson says. “There were vacant places, property values were depressed, very few people—it was in a state of serious decline.”

Now the street boasts numerous eateries, galleries, beauty salons, carnicerias, and a super mercado. Not to mention the Apollon, which is a new hot spot to experience visual art, theatrical performances, music, and gourmet food.

“When you see big businesses putting money into neighborhoods, you know things are going up,” says Ferguson.

Councilman Garry Gernandt feels that The Cottages is a vital link to the neighborhood’s rebound.
“It creates a good mix to an area that has been in new stages of revitalization for the last few years,” says Gernandt.
Ratigan and Butler are excited to be a part of that mix.

“The positivity of this area is underrated,” says Butler. “It’s very family friendly and a great part of town.”

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