Tag Archives: La Buvette

Urban Evolution

January 8, 2019 by
Photography by William Hess Photography

Steve and Julie Burgess were enjoying a glass of wine at La Buvette when the idea hit Julie like a ton of old bricks. While admiring the Old Market’s lovely brick buildings, redesigned from warehouses into homes, and imagining the minimalist ease of urban living, it occurred to Julie that she and Steve had access to a beautiful, old, downtown building that they could renovate into their own modern living space.

Automatic Printing Co. has been in Julie’s family for generations, housed in three adjacent buildings at 17th and Cuming streets. In early 2017, Julie, who works at Automatic, and Steve, who does commercial architecture for DLR Group, began the process of redesigning the easternmost building into what is now their happy home. 

“I’m grateful because I just knew it was possible, but I couldn’t see what it would look like,” Julie says. “Steve has that knack; he works with spaces and can see it without it being there.”

Serendipitously, Automatic Printing Co. was looking to downsize its space just as the Burgesses were. The Burgesses, along with Julie’s sister Jana, had lived together in a sprawling Dundee home for 16 years. Despite their substantial investment of time and money in renovating that home, the 6,000-square-foot house situated on three-quarters of an acre ultimately took too much effort to care for and was not ideal for Jana, a traumatic brain injury survivor with mobility issues. 

In April 2017, the family moved from their house on Happy Hollow Boulevard to the Tip Top Apartments, where they would remain during a 15-month detour between homes before moving into their new space on Cuming Street in July 2018. 

The Burgesses partnered with Geoff DeOld and Emily Andersen of DeOld Andersen Architecture to create the new home of their dreams in the old family building. Julie says they were blessed to find DeOld and Andersen due to their experience working with older buildings and willingness to design for the Burgesses’ lifestyle and logistical needs.

“Emily and Geoff visited us at our old house to see how we lived,” Julie says. “They really listened and observed how Jana moved around, how we used our space, and the things that mattered to us.”

Steve came to the conversation with his architectural mindset and relevant examples for reference.

“I combed through images of many historic building renovation projects and collected a handful of pictures to show them the direction we wanted to go,” Steve says.

For DeOld and Andersen, working with Steve and Julie was a dream.

“Steve and Julie were really great to work with—seriously the best clients we’ve ever had,” Andersen says. “There’s a certain language we [and Steve] share as architects and Julie is extremely open-minded. It made the project better and smoother.”

Andersen says they started by using components they knew to be most important to the family—bringing natural light into a space with scant existing windows, accessibility for Jana and the Burgesses as they age, outdoor spaces, and a proper kitchen for Steve, who loves to cook—as anchors for the design plan.

A singular front patio gate inspired by Lebanese design and strategic skylights brought in light; an elevator and second-floor laundry facilities gave Jana the gift of independence; a rooftop patio ably mimics their old Dundee terrace, and the kitchen is spacious and well-appointed enough to satisfy any chef. 

There were also happy discoveries along the way that ultimately informed aesthetics. For example, the Burgesses intended to put in new flooring until a gorgeous Douglas fir wood floor was found under layers of history and alternate flooring. 

“The wood floor informed a lot of the other decisions—the paneling on the wall, the bookshelves, the butcher’s block in the kitchen—all the wood touches started to come out after that,” Steve says. “The texture and history of this place is wonderful.”

“To me, this project was largely about just revealing the existing building, but then also the insertion of the new structural steel frame. It was actually very simple in some regards but complex to execute,” Andersen says, noting that the project’s success depended heavily on a robust team of partners, including contractor Dicon; structural and civil engineers with The Wells Resource; and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers from Alvine Engineering.

Andersen says the project is an example of adaptive reuse—adapting an existing building to a new use—which she notes is key to creating intriguing urban landscapes.

“These can become really cool projects because there’s this existing building with its own history and this overlap of uses,” Andersen says. “There are constraints with that but also the ability to be very creative and develop way more interesting environments—where you have a collection of different types and styles of structures, which ultimately leads to a way more interesting neighborhood and city.”

While their home is on such hallowed, familiar family ground, neither Steve nor Julie had ever lived in new construction until now.

“It’s interesting. In a 100-year-old building, we’re living in new construction,” Julie says with a laugh.

“It’s really a joy to live in a space that you helped design,” Steve says. “You have the opportunity to think through the layout, the circulation, the proximity and adjacencies of spaces…It’s a nice feeling and there’s a real sense of satisfaction in how well it turned out.”

After investing more than $1 million in their new home and finding it the perfect fit, Steve and Julie were disheartened to see that the Builder’s District plan—approved by the City Council in October 2018—shows their home and family business wiped off the map through the power of eminent domain.

Andersen says that result would be a shame. In addition to representing what she calls “a very old model of working within a city” that ignores the need for community engagement and transparency, Andersen believes the demolition of old buildings like this is not ideal for Omaha’s architectural landscape nor its ability to retain talent and combat “brain drain.”

“We need to be thinking creatively about our existing buildings instead of just demolishing them,” she says. “Having urban neighborhoods with a collection of different conditions or types of buildings lends itself to a richer experience than areas that are completely monoculture of the similar scale and generic design. To me, they should be thinking about how they can integrate Automatic Printing and some of the other perfectly OK structures in the area into the current plan, because it would result in a more interesting development.”

In the meantime, as the Burgesses hope to be able to keep their new home in the old family building, they’re enjoying the neighborhood and basking in the memories of years spent in their special space.

“Not only is it beautiful and functional, but I sit in the living room at night and just marvel because I can see the shadows of what used to be here,” Julie says. “I look around and know that, about where Jana’s chair is, that’s where our dad’s desk sat for all those years. I think my dad might say we were crazy to do it, but he would also get it and think it was a pretty neat progression.”


Learn more about the Burgess residence at d-aarch.com/cuming-street-residence.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Matthew Hansen and Sarah Baker Hansen

August 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

All memorable stories, written or otherwise, are filled with turning points. Moments when the next step becomes unmistakably clear. Moments when life’s twists and turns, wins and losses, hopes and heartbreaks, serve up the next chapter.

A few moments for Sarah Baker Hansen and Matthew Hansen defined not only their life together, but also their life’s work. Today, they are a literary power couple, both writing prominent columns for the Omaha World-Herald.

Their pivotal moment together took a while, more than five years after their first date. The couple met in 2000 while working at The Daily Nebraskan, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s student newspaper. Although they acted friendly to each other, a relationship was far from their minds.   

Their first official date wouldn’t happen for another year. It was 2001. Sarah had since graduated from college and was living back home in Omaha following an internship at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Matthew was finishing up his studies at UNL. A 100-year reunion for The Daily Nebraskan was near, which meant Matthew might see Sarah soon.

“A fellow DN staffer said Sarah had a crush on me years earlier, so then I started emailing her,” Matthew recalls with a smile.

Emails were exchanged, and a little bit of flirting even took place. Sarah missed the reunion, but Matthew eventually asked her out.

Sarah chose the French Café, one of her favorite Old Market eateries. It would become the same spot where Matthew would propose to Sarah, and a venue that would emphasize their vastly different backgrounds.

“I was a dorky, small town sports guy,” says Matthew, a native of Red Cloud.

Matthew found Sarah’s Omaha roots, her affinity for food, and her love of art and culture attractive. But such interest was also met with some trepidation that evening. On their first date, Matthew recalls having a “very quiet, very polite panic attack around the idea of ordering a drink. We sat at the French Café bar. I never had a cocktail that was fancier than Jack and Coke.”

Sarah had already developed an adventurous palate: “I grew up with parents who were foodies before that was a thing. They had these really elaborate dinner parties in the 1980s, and it was a real treat for me to stay up and eat the pâté, watch my dad make the chocolate mousse. And the Cornish hens. And the bone-in pork rib roast with the booties.”

Sarah and Matthew’s first date at the French Café lumbered on somewhat awkwardly. A few days later, Matthew phoned Sarah for a second date. She passed, suggesting that the two remain just friends.

Fast forward five years. Sarah and her sister were in Lincoln at Duffy’s Tavern for a concert. She went for the live music—and to meet a new guy.

Matthew got there first.

The two chatted, catching up over the past five years. The new guy eventually showed up…with another girl in tow. Matthew, Sarah, and their mutual friends made their way to O’Rourke’s Tavern. They talked the whole night.

It was then that Sarah trusted her gut: she offered Matthew her phone number. “That night in Lincoln, there was definitely a connection,” Sarah says.

The following week, the two were practically inseparable. About a year later, they were living together in Omaha.

“We were just entirely comfortable with each other from that day forward,” Sarah explains.

They were engaged in 2008 and married in 2009. This fall marks 10 years since that fateful second date.

Matthew worked previously at the Lincoln Journal Star, while Sarah held public relations posts at the Nebraska Tourism Commission and the Sheldon Museum of Art. Years of freelancing for The Reader and writing her first book, The Insider’s Guide to Omaha and Lincoln, laid the groundwork for her position at the Omaha World-Herald. And traveling Nebraska for her tourism work yielded something else entirely unexpected.

“Working in PR at the state tourism office allowed me to understand Matthew a bit more,” Sarah says. “I didn’t know much about Nebraska. The first time I went to Red Cloud with Matthew was the first time I was ever on a farm. That changed me in a lot of ways.”

Matthew said he was changed not only by moving to Omaha, but by becoming immersed in local art and food alongside Sarah. He’s involved with Hear Nebraska, founded by Sarah’s UNL classmate Andrew Norman. And Red Cloud left its mark on Sarah; she now serves on the Willa Cather Foundation Board of Governors.

The couple can often be spotted at La Buvette, one of their most beloved Old Market establishments, talking about the newspaper industry, reality television, the Chicago Cubs, or their latest meal. As downtown Omaha residents for the past several years, they have found comfort in their urban neighborhood, walking to and from work together each day. They often explore of the greater metro area through restaurants that Sarah is assigned to cover. (Yes, in many cases, Matthew is her plus one.)

There was a time not too long ago when Matthew and Sarah found themselves at a bar in New York City. An opportunity presented itself that would have allowed the couple to pack their things, their roots, and their cat for new lives in the Big Apple.

“We could do this,” Sarah recalls, weighing their options. “We could do this and be happy and successful (in New York City). But we could do things that are meaningful in Omaha, that have a real impact.”

Together, they returned to Omaha. During the following year, Matthew was named an Omaha World-Herald columnist. Sarah was hired as the paper’s food critic.

“We said, let’s try to do something impactful to this place where we’re choosing to be, that we care so much about,” she says. “I feel that’s the path we chose to take.

Visit omaha.com to read their work.

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Al Fresco Fever

May 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The stars and seasons have aligned, giving you free time on a beautiful day. Birds chirp, parks bustle, flowers bloom. Eager to enjoy a cage-free couple of hours, you urgently text friends from your desk: “Get thee to a patio!” The clock strikes 5 and you’re off quicker than a cardigan on a sunny, 80-degree day. But where to?

Omahans have access to many fine restaurant and bar patios, but here are some standout gems you’ll want to bookmark for those most patio-perfect days.

Marks Bistro, voted 2016 Best of Omaha Outdoor Patio (alongside Salt 88 and 1912), is a superb option for everything from sharing an intimate, open-air meal with a first date to unwinding with an old friend over a bottle of wine. As you summit the steps from Underwood Avenue you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a lush, romantic secret garden of sorts. However, Marks’ quality menu, wine list, and unmatched atmosphere is no secret. Tucked behind the second level of a stately 1906 Dundee home, Marks’ patio is elegant without putting on airs, and peaceful even when packed with diners clinking glasses.       

“Most of us spend the majority of our workweek inside,” says co-owner Mark Pluhacek. “Sometimes nothing’s more relaxing than dining al fresco and enjoying some good conversation.”

Each spring, Pluhacek and his wife Kristin personally choose and plant the many colorful flowers that, alongside beautiful trees and ivy-covered fences, provide Marks’ trademark garden feel.   

Pluhacek says Marks is currently developing an additional street-level patio to allow guests a choice between the original garden patio and a more active, people-watching space along Underwood. But in both spaces, Pluhacek promises, “lots of flowers.”

Speaking of people-watching, La Buvette offers an excellent vantage point for taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling Old Market while simultaneously transporting patrons to France. Since 1991, this European-style cafe, wine bar, and market has been a popular spot to meet friends for a leisurely afternoon of wine, cheese, and chatting. The ever-changing menu is both basic and epicurean, with divine, fresh, house-baked bread perhaps the sole daily guarantee. The vibe here is “don’t worry, don’t hurry,” so come prepared to adapt to the pace and daily offerings. If you can’t nab a spot on the popular patio proper, don’t fret. When the weather’s right, La Buvette throws open wide doors on either side of its main entrance allowing a flood of sunshine and fresh air inside.      

El Aguila has an under-the-radar patio with high brick walls, colorful plants, and a Spanish colonial courtyard vibe. Lovers of Mexican food and jumbo margaritas will have no problemo finding patio paradise here—occasionally made even more magical by a roving Mariachi band.       

Nicola’s offers quaint romance, the Surfside rustic riverside atmosphere, and 1912 a rooftop option. More great al fresco dining options include Benson Brewery, Jimi D’s, Tracks Lounge, Salt 88, Corkscrew Wine & Cheese Blackstone, Upstream Old Market, Brix Midtown, Dante Pizzeria, and Varsity Sports Cafe & Roman Coin Pizza on the lake at 145th and F streets.

On the bar side of things, O’Leaver’s Beer Garden is Omaha’s outdoor space rookie of the year. Open since September 2015, the high-fenced, spacious outdoor area is a true oasis. O’Leaver’s already had a modest front patio, with a delightfully oddball Friends-themed fence (bearing the names Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey, and Phoebe) and new ownership over the past few years has made several upgrades to the indoor space including the addition of a tiki bar area.    

“We wanted to create a whole new vibe outdoors and offer our customers the same special experience, but one that’s very different from the inside of the pub,” says co-owner Ted Stevens.

Indeed, the dimly lit pub contrasts with the bright beer garden, which has a full-service bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Varied seating lets patrons choose between laid-back Adirondacks, barstools, wooden banquettes and benches, small tables, and long, communal picnic tables under an attached pergola. Nature is a key design element, with built-in flower boxes lining the seating area, a miniature weeping willow tree, small pond, and other nice natural touches. Strings of lights hang overhead, twinkling at night with a just-right light.

O’Leaver’s is known for hosting live music inside, and Stevens says they hope to add outdoor movie nights and weekend brunch cocktail parties in 2016, also possibly opening the beer garden bar occasionally for weeknight shows.

Mister Toad’s Pub is a classic with cozy woodwork, stained glass, and book-lined walls, but in warmer months, it’s all about Mr. Toad’s Courtyard. Flower boxes stud the patio and wooden tables interlock around trees, offering the opportunity for privacy or neighborliness at your discretion. The passing action of the Old Market provides plenty to see.        

The Rose & Crown patio is a divey delight with large trees—some even decorated with woodsy faces. Other solid bar patio options include Dundee Cork & Bottle, Krug Park, Marylebone, Havana Garage, and LIV Lounge.

Whatever beer garden, courtyard, or veranda you land on, raise a glass to the patio season and enjoy greater Omaha’s great urban out-of-doors.

Patios

Exploring Omaha on Valentine’s Day

February 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the love and letting your spouse, your children, your friends—even your dog—know that you care.

But when it comes to Valentine’s Day celebrations, it can be a little difficult to share the wealth when you find yourself stuck in the stereotypical rut of chocolate, flowers, and the same dinner at your favorite restaurant every year.

Home to dozens of distinct neighborhoods, Omaha offers hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered, as well as classic landmarks that might be overlooked on Valentine’s Day.

Meghan Francis and Kerry Jones, founders of the Omaha-based blog Wise Owl + Sly Fox, brainstormed some unique Omaha Valentine’s Day activities.

“I guess we’ve always been old souls with old styles, and that’s one great thing about Omaha: There’s just so much history here,” says Francis.

Together, Francis and Jones came up with a Valentine’s Day “tour of Omaha.” Pick and choose from different activities to show loved ones a small portion of all the intimacy, history, and romance that Omaha has to offer.

Get your heart rate up in the morning with a walk or run with your loved one through the Field Club neighborhood. Located along an old railroad bend, the Field Club trail offers visitors a brief glimpse into a bygone era. Although you’ll have to bundle up, the sights of this secluded area include gorgeous ravines, snow-capped trees, and abandoned railroad tracks.

If your partner is a history buff, make a quick stop by the Gerald R. Ford Preservation Center near Hanscomb Park. An exhibition on Ford, the only president to have lived in Omaha, is open by appointment by calling the center’s main phone line at 402-595-1180. The exhibit is available for private viewing Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free of charge. The exhibit features photos of his birthplace, family memorabilia, and gifts given to Ford by world leaders and well-wishing locals.

For lunch, hop on over to Dundee, home to both casual and higher-end fare in an all-accessible setting. Stop by the French Bulldog for something on the trendier side or try Dundee Dell for classic comfort food from an Omaha staple. Both spaces offer comfortable opportunities to spend some time watching the eclectic crowd of Dundee.

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If you’re looking for an afternoon activity once the kids come home from school, Valentine’s Day crafts are an easy way to get the whole family involved. Francis and Jones suggest making homemade cards.

“We’re big fans of sending things through the mail. It’s just always a fun thing, and it’s something that we don’t do a lot in this day and age,” says Francis.

“Send them to your grandma, your single aunt, veterans at the VA hospital, whoever,” adds Jones.

For crafting supplies, head out to South-Central Omaha. David M. Mangelsen’s has been stocking Omaha’s crafting closets since 1961, and is an easy stop to find any Valentine’s Day-related arts and crafts supplies you could think of. A few hours coloring, gluing, and bedazzling might expose some hidden creativity among the family.

If you want to end your night with a more traditional Valentine’s Day celebration, spend the night in the Old Market, which is home to a host of restaurants that offer the quintessential romantic dinners by candlelight. Francis and Jones’ personal favorite is La Buvette, a French-style café and grocer.

For some after-dinner entertainment, look to the Omaha art scene. Many of the Old Market’s art galleries, including the Passageway Gallery and Anderson O’Brien Fine Art, are open until 9 p.m. on Fridays for some late-night shopping.

Although, after a whirlwind day around Omaha, you might want to hit the sack early.