Some neighbors upset by apartments planned for vacant lot at 39th and Dodge | Local Business News

Residents of the Joslyn Castle neighborhood are happy to see plans for an apartment complex on a long-vacant lot near 39th and Dodge Streets.

But some are concerned about the potential for an uptick in traffic and cars parked on their streets.

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Omaha developer Woodsonia plans to turn the spot at 39th and Dodge Streets into an apartment complex with 136 units.

A proposal from local developer Woodsonia calls for a 136-unit apartment complex as well as an underground parking garage, interior courtyard and landscaped greenspaces.

The plan also would close 39th Street at Dodge, as well as an alleyway to the west.

Woodsonia officials have held two neighborhood meetings on the project, said Mitch Hohlen, a partner on the project. Officials also have been working with owners of neighboring properties and plan to attend another neighborhood meeting next week.

Some neighbors have submitted letters of support for the project. But Hohlen said others have reached out with questions and concerns.

“With any project,” he said, “you’re going to have a degree of opposition.”

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The City of Omaha’s Planning Department has heard from neighbors, too. For the most part, said Planning Director David Fanslau, concerns have been centered on traffic, parking and aesthetics.

Several developers looked at the site, Fanslau said, but nothing ever took off. That’s in part, he said, because of issues for drivers at the intersection of 39th and Dodge. Blocking off the intersection with this development should make things safer.

The developer is seeking $3.7 million in tax-increment financing to complete the $27 million project.

Overall, the development will be a good thing, said Jim Winston, president of the Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association.

“This is going to be a terrific use of what was a rathole in our neighborhood,” Winston said. “We do have some concerns, but we’re looking forward to hopefully working those out with the city.”

Winston said he and some others are concerned that closing 39th Street and the alleyway could push traffic into the neighborhood, which sees lots of walkers, bicyclists and families.

“We’re going to decrease their safety in all of this,” he said.

With 88 underground parking spaces and 13 above-ground stalls for 136 units, residents of the complex may take up more street parking spots on an already crowded stretch of neighborhood streets.

Jackie Kolakowski, who lives in the neighborhood, said she’s concerned for pedestrian safety with more traffic and more parked cars. Some areas in the neighborhood, she said, already lack clearly marked crosswalks.

While traffic may increase in the area, Hohlen said, it will be residential traffic, not heavy volumes of traffic coming from a restaurant or commercial business. And the number of parking spaces planned is on par with other multifamily developments in the area.

Kolakowski said she and other neighbors are upset with the building’s modern design in a neighborhood of historic homes. The vacant lot is an eyesore, she said, but the proposed design feels like “just a big building.”

Winston said the neighborhood association isn’t taking a stance on design.

“We’ve got brick houses and Craftsman cottages,” he said. “How do you turn a 136-unit set of apartments into a red brick building or Craftsman cottage?”

As for concerns that developers later would add a commercial or retail component to the building, city officials said they’re locked into a strictly residential design.

Developers are excited to clean up the longtime vacant lot and remedy a safety issue by blocking 39th Street.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Hohlen said. “It’s part of our community, too.”

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