Tag Archives: Omaha Downtown Improvement District

Holly Barrett

April 9, 2015 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Originally published in March/April 2015 Encounter.

Holly Barrett knows how to shovel horse manure. According to her father, this set Barrett up perfectly for politics. Once a professional horse trainer and dressage rider, Barrett brings a unique and upbeat attitude to her job as the director of the Omaha Downtown Improvement District (DID).

And she isn’t afraid to get dirty. Barrett may push down a filthy lever on a trash compactor during the day, and then put on a floor-length gown at night to rub elbows with the donors of the city. She is a basic black dress kind of girl. “It hides the dirt or dresses up,” Barrett says with a boisterous laugh. She is animated and refreshingly candid.

If you watch Parks and Recreation, you’ll see a little bit of Leslie Knope in Holly Barrett.

Barrett brings 17 years of experience in relationship-based professions, including fundraising, politics, and public relations. Her latest stint was serving as the executive director of Denver’s LoDo area, its image growing considerably under her watchful eyes. “She (Barrett) is just what Omaha needs to make downtown the premier spot to visit, work, live and be entertained,” says Bill Owen, the board chair of the DID.

Barrett is excited to be part of a city at its tipping point—the sky’s the limit and Omaha is a wonderful canvas, she says. Transportation alternatives, improvement of parking, and activation of public spaces are ideas in the hopper. “We have to get Omahans to think of themselves as a big city,” Barrett says.

In order for this to happen, Barrett says the perspective and mentality of people here first has to change. If someone wants to stop by for a frosty mug of beer down in The Old Market on a hot day, he or she will drive around and around to find a parking meter. Meters are less expensive than an $8 parking lot.

Barrett says $8 for parking is probably the cheapest in the country, but understands it is important to work with parking lot vendors to lower rates to make them more reasonable. She has worked with one city lot, on 10th and Jackson Streets, to lower it to $1 an hour. Almost instantly, it was easier to find a meter because the lots were full. Plus, Omahans are still very much in love with their cars. “I have seen people drive four blocks to go from a meeting in The Old Market to come up to a meeting here,” Barrett says laughing until her face turns red. “And, in my mind, that is absolutely hilarious.”

She wants people to move easier and more efficiently downtown, but realizes the harsh Midwest weather permits this from happening. She walks pretty much everywhere, even on the coldest of days, bundled up in a coat. Barrett drives only for basic amenities or to see her horse, Poppy, in Papillion.

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Can you tell me how to get to…?

February 25, 2013 by

If you are a frequent reader of this magazine or this column, you probably know your way around Downtown Omaha. However, the thousands of visitors, the special occasion locals, and even some of the in-and-out employees don’t necessarily know their way around downtown or all that we have to offer. A new Downtown Vehicular and Pedestrian Wayfinding Signage System will help with that!

In total, 88 new signs will highlight 27 downtown attractions, and direct drivers and pedestrians to their desired destinations. It’s like an on-street GPS system that not only directs you where you want to go, but suggests the many other museums, theaters, event venues, and shopping districts that make Downtown Omaha what it is.

Just like every other project that has transformed Downtown Omaha, this could not have happened without a wide variety of partners and supporters. The Downtown Improvement District is proud to lead and contribute to this effort and thanks the City of Omaha, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, Midtown Crossing, the Mutual of Omaha Foundation, the William and Ruth Scott Foundation, HDR, First National Bank, Creighton University, the Downtown Omaha Inc. Foundation, RDG Planning & Design, Poblacki Sign Solutions, Vic Gutman & Associates, and former mayor Mike Fahey for their contributions to this effort.

So, venture out, let the signs be your guide, and enjoy Downtown Omaha!

This column is part of a series detailing the activities and efforts of the Omaha Downtown Improvement District (DID) to further strengthen Downtown Omaha.

The State of Downtown

December 25, 2012 by

With 2012 in the rearview mirror and a strong 2013 ahead of us, we thought we’d bring to you the State of Downtown Omaha!

Downtown Omaha is thriving. Major development and redevelopment projects are changing the landscape of the area. Projects such as the Hyatt Hotel, the Barker Building, the Marriott Hotel, the Highline, and the Gavilon headquarters building will bring people, jobs, housing, and businesses to the downtown area.

Small businesses continue to emerge. Le Wonderment and The Tea Smith have established themselves within the traditional small business center of the Old Market, while Café 100, The Tap House, Block 16, and McLovin—A Store for Men dot the downtown cityscape.

The coming year will bring additional changes and isn’t without challenges. Opportunities to improve the public parking system, vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding, the Leahy Mall, and 16th Street are within reach. However, we must also remain vigilant in our efforts to tackle the challenges that exist on 16th Street, in the lack of short-distance transit options, and the periodic safety issues.

This is a time in our city’s history when we should be proud of our downtown, its ongoing growth, and the bright future that lies ahead. Happy New Year!

This column is part of a series detailing the activities and efforts of the Omaha Downtown Improvement District (DID) to further strengthen Downtown Omaha.

 

In Memoriam: George Eisenberg

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by Nebraska Jewish Historical Society

The late George Eisenberg, 88, appreciated the historic Old Market the way few people do because of his many relationships to it. His experience encompassed the Market’s life as a wholesale produce center and eventual transformation into an arts-culture destination and trendy neighborhood.

He began working in the Old Market as a peddler’s son, manning a fruit stall alongside his father, Ben, and brother, Hymie, in what was then the Omaha City Market. Later, he founded and ran a successful niche business with Hymie supplying national food manufacturers’ thrown-away bits of onions and potatoes. The brothers, known as “the potato and onion kings of the U.S.,” officed in adjoining warehouses their father kept for storage and distribution. Eisenberg held onto the building even after the produce market disbanded and the area fell into decline. As the area transitioned and property rates skyrocketed, he became a well-positioned landlord and active Old Market Business Association and Omaha Downtown Improvement District member.

“He went to the meetings and spoke his mind,” son Steve Eisenberg says. More than speak his mind, Eisenberg oversaw the careful renovation of his building and secured many of the lamp posts that adorn the Old Market.

The Eisenberg property at 414-418 South 10th Street housed many tenants over the years, and today is home to J.D. Tucker’s and Stadium View sports bars.

Eisenberg-on-truck-copy_2

Eisenberg was half of the wholesaler Eisenberg and Rothstein Co.

As the Old Market grew, he became one of its biggest advocates and enjoyed playing the role of unofficial historian. He’s remembered as a gentle lion who proudly shared the district’s past with business owners, visitors, media, and anyone interested in its history. He loved telling stories of what used to be a teeming Old World marketplace where Jewish, Italian, and other ethnic merchants dickered with customers over the price of fruit and vegetables.

“Something he really enjoyed doing, especially in his retirement, was going down there and letting people know where the Old Market came from and where it’s going. Up till his last days, he saw such a bright future for the Old Market and was very proud of what all was going on down there,” says Steve.

“George was just terrific, a real gentleman, also a wonderful character with a great sense of humor and compassion. He was revered as an ‘elder statesman,’” says Old Market Business Association member Angela Barry. “He was very sharp and knowledgeable about the neighborhood’s history. Even in his later years, he lovingly and passionately cared about the business of the Old Market.

“He really was something special. When I heard of his passing, it was a sad day.”

Nouvelle Eve owner Kat Moser will remember Eisenberg for his wise and generous business counsel.

Steve Eisenberg will remember his father as “a very hard worker who, even in retirement, kept busy promoting other people’s businesses and the Old Market area itself.”

The Eisenberg presence will live on there. “My siblings and I promised him we’re never selling the building,” says Steve. “It’s staying in the family, and we’re going to run it like he did.”

With Eisenberg’s passing and his peddler pal, Joe Vitale, preceding him in death a year earlier, the last sources with first-hand knowledge of the Omaha City Market are gone. But they leave behind an Old Market legacy not soon forgotten.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.