Tag Archives: Midtown Omaha

The Best of All Worlds

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Let’s dispense with the references to a certain ’70s sitcom right off the bat. Yes, Jennifer and Bryan Yannone are the parents of a blended family of six kids. Yes, Bryan is project director for Lockwood Development and Bloomfield Custom Homes, a position with some surface similarities to the architecture job of his TV dad counterpart. And, yes, the Yannones are a telegenic couple with a warm, relaxed vibe.

But their new home, the first in Sterling Ridge at 132nd and Pacific in Omaha, represents more than just the union of two families. It is the convergence of several decidedly 21st-century ideas about diversity, work-life balance, smart-home technology, and the logistics of new urban planning in an already very established part of the city.Bryan-4_web

Sterling Ridge is a mixed-use development of commercial, residential, retail, and religious space. When completed, the 153-acre site will feature more than 700,000 square feet of office space, 30 high-end custom homes, 10 villas, retail, restaurants, an assisted living facility, a hotel, and the Tri-Faith Initiative: a collaboration of Temple Israel, The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, and The American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture.

The very location of the site signifies this spirit of inclusiveness. It was once home to the venerable Highland Country Club, established in 1924 as a club where Jewish members would be welcome. (Highland changed hands in the 1990s and the newly-named Ironwood shuttered and was sold to Lockwood Development at a bank auction in 2010.)Bryan-12_web

In a city that is constantly expanding to points west, north, and south, the central location also acts as an integration point for several parts of town.

This was especially important to the Yannones, who had children in two separate school districts. “There was nowhere in Midtown Omaha where you could build a new, custom home without having to knock down an existing home,” says Jennifer, a gifted and talented facilitator for Omaha Public Schools.


As members of the community and because of their family association with the development company, the Yannones are particularly sensitive to the historical and civic importance of the property. “People were disappointed when Ironwood closed,” Jennifer acknowledges. “Lockwood wanted to make this development worth the sacrifice. For every tree they took down, they planted five more. They spared no expense to provide a community feel.”

Inside the seven-bedroom, 5,700-square-foot Yannone home, that communal sense is most keenly felt in the open kitchen, dining, and seating area that serves as the focal point of the family’s activities. “We spend most of our time between these three rooms,” says Jennifer of the multi-functional space which features clean lines and cool, neutral colors. “I wanted it to look contemporary, but still homey and livable.”


The family worked with Lisa Shrager of LMK Concepts and Megan Bret of Exquisite Finishes on the home’s interiors. “The trick was making the home durable and low-maintenance without compromising style,” says Shrager. She achieved the family’s desired blend of a sleek look and a warm vibe by balancing hard, manmade surfaces like the kitchen backsplash comprised of multiple metals including stainless steel and bronze, with natural materials like stained rich oak wood on the cabinetry and granite countertops.

This harmony reverbates around the room: a mantle of 12×24-inch tile acts as a horizontal counterpoint to the strong vertical presence of the fireplace itself. This is geometrically echoed in light, linear tiling that serves as bridge between the three sections of the main family space and on the flooring and walls throughout the home.

The children picked their own colors, themes, and bedding for their rooms: a Husker motif for the youngest, Brayden Yannone (9); sports for the two middle boys, Baylen Yannone (11) and Drew Gibbons (12); music and guitar for the eldest boy, Luke Gibbons (14); and inspiring quotes for Jennifer’s daughter, Michaela Gibbons (17). Her older daughter, Jessica Gibbons (21), lives away at college but has claimed a room on the lower level for school breaks.

The Mediterranean-inspired exterior of the home, which also serves as a model for Bloomfield Custom Homes, was Bryan’s idea. Its sand-colored stucco and stone ediface, crowned by hipped roofs, envelops an open, road-facing courtyard and would not be out of place among the revival mansions of Pasadena. “I wanted a home that was a vacation.”


Before they could kick back and enjoy, the family had to educate themselves about the various “smart” features of their home, most of which, including cameras, garage doors, lights, and music, can be operated from an iPad. “When you walk out the door, there’s an off button. You can shut off the whole house!” Jennifer says with glee. “Before we moved in, we had to take the kids around, ‘This is how you shut off the lights…’”

And while the Yannone-Gibbons clan is clearly having fun with the more dazzling features of their new stomping grounds (such as the time Michaela called Jennifer from downstairs to tell her it was too warm and Jennifer “fixed it” without leaving the comfort of her sofa), their parents are careful to keep them grounded.

“They all think we live in a mansion,” Jennifer laughs. “But we remind them that we’re blessed to have this. When school’s out, we do a lot of volunteering, like at the Open Door Mission.”

“With the house came new responsibilities,” says Bryan. “It’s a group effort to keep a house this size, but the children have become very efficient about it.”

It’s a synthesis formula that the businesses, other families, and spiritual communities of Sterling Ridge would do well to copy. As Jennifer puts it, “We all pitch in and take care of what we have.”

For more information on this unique mixed-use development, visit sterlingridge.com.

Staycations Just For Mom

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

All busy moms—stay-at-home and working mothers alike—need to break routine and get away from it all once in a while. There’s no shame in admitting it. Even a single night away from home can do wonders to reinvigorate your spirit and help you gain a better perspective on all you have to be grateful for. In the end, you’re a better parent for having taken a little time for yourself.

But getting away doesn’t have to mean boarding a plane or spending a fortune. There are plenty of great staycation options here in Omaha, ideal for a quick romantic escape with your significant other or a fun girlfriends’ weekend.

If you’re always talking about all the great places and events in Downtown Omaha you’d love to take in (but never do), and you appreciate the finer things in life, then an overnight at Hotel Deco XV (15th & Harney streets) might be just what you’re looking for. With an Art Deco design, 24-hour room service, and valet and concierge services available, you’re sure to feel like a special guest at this AAA Four-Diamond boutique hotel. All of its 89 elegant rooms and suites are furnished with plush beds and luxurious linens, and each is decorated a bit differently, making every stay unique.

Hotel Deco’s location downtown makes it a convenient spot to call “home” if you wish to take in a musical or theatre performance at the Holland Performing Arts Center or Orpheum Theater, an art exhibit at KANEKO or the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, or a riverfront walk or stroll over the Pedestrian Bridge. You’re also just steps away from the historic Old Market District, which houses several of Omaha’s best restaurants, dozens of pubs and wine lounges with live entertainment, eclectic gift and antique stores, clothing and jewelry stores, and even several yoga studios, salons, and day spas.

If you’re a lover of old homes and prefer the charm of a bed and breakfast, then a stay at the Cornerstone Mansion in Midtown might be your perfect destination. Just north of Dodge off 39th Street in Omaha’s Gold Coast neighborhood, the 10,200-sq-ft home built in 1894 is on the National Register of Historic Places. The home features seven guest rooms, each with a private bath and décor true to the period. Some rooms also have a fireplace, sun porch, desk, oversized claw-foot tub, and views of neighboring Joslyn Castle and its beautifully landscaped six-acre estate. Guests are encouraged to peruse the books in the library, play a tune on the grand piano, enjoy a chat in the parlor, or relax in one of the garden gazebos. A continental breakfast is also served on weekdays, and a full gourmet breakfast in the formal dining room on weekends.

While many guests find so much to take in at the mansion that they don’t leave, others that wish to venture out have many options nearby. Joslyn Art Museum is just a five-minute drive away, and Midtown Crossing, with its casual and fine dining, movie theater, park, cocktail lounges, and retail shopping, is just a few blocks’ walk down Dodge. Cornerstone is also a 10-minute drive from the Omaha Community Playhouse, TD Ameritrade Park, CenturyLink Center, and all the venues in Downtown Omaha, so the opportunities are almost limitless!

If for you, a getaway is simply code for a weekend shopping spree, then a stay in West Omaha may be more your style. The Hilton Garden Inn (near 180th just south of Dodge) is conveniently located next to Village Pointe Shopping Center, which offers a plethora of shopping for mom—accessories and apparel, home décor, jewelry, and lotions and potions, as well as a hair salon, nail salon, gourmet ice cream and chocolate shops, and several great sit-down restaurants featuring delicious appetizer and drink menus. The center also features a 16-screen state-of-the-art movie theater, the Funny Bone Comedy Club, and hosts a Saturday morning farmers market and free Saturday night concert series in the summer.

Back at the Garden Inn after a day of shopping, you can enjoy a dip in the hotel’s heated pool or soak in the whirlpool (some suites even have whirlpool tubs in-room!), then retire to a white, duvet-covered bed—with no risk of a child joining you at 3am—and wake refreshed the next morning, ready to hit the fitness center for an uninterrupted workout, grab a bite at a nearby café, and venture out to the stores for more retail therapy.

Book your staycation today. You know what they say…when Mom’s happy, everybody’s happy!

Gallery 72…Anew!

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As a new year emerges from the old, so do a renowned art gallery and a historic South Omaha building. Artists and afficianados, community activists and preservationists, business owners and curious neighbors are all watching the goings-on at Gallery 72’s new location, 1806 Vinton Street. Perhaps even Janus (the ancient Roman gatekeeper who is remembered by the word “January,”), the god of beginnings and transitions, is curious. It’s an exciting moment, a time to look, as Janus does, both back and forward. And it’s a time to celebrate.

Mary Zicafoose: Tapestries, Prints, and Carpets is the exhibition marking the Grand Opening of this new space. “The launch of the new Gallery 72 is a bold and exciting ‘YES’ for the arts in Omaha,” says Zicafoose, an internationally known artist. “I am very, very pleased to have my work selected for the inaugural show.”

For Gallery 72, a longtime art landmark in Midtown Omaha, the move underscores its transition from fabled owners, the late Bob and Roberta Rogers, to their son, John. The gallery first opened in 1972 at an address on 72nd Street. When it moved to 27th and Leavenworth, the gallery retained its name and became a hub for contemporary art. Everyone was welcome.

“Bob and Roberta” became a watchword for a warm welcome, and newbies could count on a user-friendly introduction to art. In fact, Bob and Roberta have been credited with educating Omaha about contemporary art, and in 1990, were honored with the Partner in the Arts, Governor’s Arts Award. Bob’s passion continued after Roberta’s death in 1999, and in 2007, Bob was honored with the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His response to the audience’s cheers and standing ovation was, “Keep it going. Keep this high energy moving forward.”Gallery72_20130131_bs_4500

Bob died this past December at age 94. Now, it’s John who intends to keep the energy going. Since retiring from teaching physics, he has taken on full-time management of the gallery. If physics is the study of movement, energy, space, and time, then his background is a perfect fit. “I’ve always been interested in the commonality between the sciences and culture,” he says. In his classroom, he hung John Himmelfarb prints, Barbara Morgan photographs, and fine quality posters of Calder and Miro.

Gallery 72 moves to a neighborhood that is seeing fresh interest and investment. The single-story building, which dates to 1922, is an integral component of the Vinton Street Commercial Historic District. Photographer Larry Ferguson, who has a history of service on Omaha art boards, bids a warm welcome from his studio in the next block, saying, “Gallery 72 is an amazing addition to the district.” Visitors will notice the red brick building, with its twin at 1808, framed by taller buildings on either side. This draws attention to the crenellated parapet roof and the facade’s decorative brickwork with stone accents. Wide southeast-facing windows entice us inside.

The L-shaped gallery is open and inviting. With more than 1,750 sq. ft., the showroom allows uncluttered display of two- and three-dimensional work. Careful planning directed a total renovation and resulted in efficient support space for office, specialized galleries, and storage. Gallery 72 exhibits and sells work by recognized regional and national artists in a range of media. Rogers also offers consultation and installation and hopes to develop a secondary art market. “I enjoy the art atmosphere and working with artists and clients,” he says.

Gallery 72 begins this new year with new life. Rogers looks forward to “revitalizing Gallery 72 and its importance to the arts of Omaha and Nebraska.” He has some innovations in mind but plans to retain its most-valuable traditions, such as the gallery’s name and well-earned reputation, and fosterage of a welcoming art environment (including potluck suppers and chocolate chip cookies). Upcoming solo exhibitions feature Deborah Masuoka, Carol Summers, and John Himmelfarb. A highlight of the spring schedule is An Evening of Art (May 11), the annual fundraiser for Friends of Art, a volunteer support group for UNO’s Department of Art and Art History.

Gallery 72
1806 Vinton Street