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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Nebraska

The Lofts
New Lofts in Historic Buildings
I-80 Expansion
Highway Boondoggle Crowds Out Transit

The Lofts
New Lofts in Historic Buildings

The NuStyle company has done more to bring people back to downtown Omaha than any other developer in the past 20 years. The cutting-edge developments they've created transform vacant downtown buildings into architecturally appealing housing and shops while maintaining the unique historical characteristics of each site.

Lofty Living: Historic redevelopment like this loft conversion in Omaha, Neb., can help reinvigorate a city's downtown.

The Lofts, one of NuStyle's more recent projects, combines the best of old and new. The developers have purchased three historic warehouses, which were built from 1899 to 1919. They are taking advantage of the era's solid construction practices by leaving the original brick walls and steel joists in place to create a unique, visually appealing living environment. Central to the interior of the building will be a five-story atrium. In a unique approach to adding green space to living space, waterfalls, skylights, plants and a footbridge are planned for the interior courtyard, which some apartments will overlook.

Although parking is planned for the development, residents may find they don't need it. With 30,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and a location five blocks from a business center, jobs, shops and entertainment are all within an easy walk. For those who work at home, NuStyle is bringing these historic buildings up to date by providing high-speed Internet access to every room. But this great project won't be for urban professionals alone as apartment prices will be quite affordable.

Residents are optimistic that growth and development downtown will continue -- due in part to innovative smart-growth developments like The Lofts.

Photo by Rob Parolek

I-80 Expansion
Highway Boondoggle Crowds Out Transit

According to Nebraska's transportation planners, expanding state and local highways at a cost of $375 million is a good investment -- even though the same amount of money would fund Lincoln's Metropolitan Transit Authority, at 2001 spending levels, for roughly 24 years.

As part of this highway spending, a two-mile segment of the I-80 near Lincoln will be expanded at a cost of $15.69 million. Another nine-mile segment of I-80 will be expanded at a cost of $45 million over five years. Supporters claim these expansions are needed to address congestion problems caused by sprawling development. The area in question, between Omaha and Lincoln, has seen explosive growth in the last several years, altering suburbs and downtown areas.

But are massive highway projects the best means to deal with this growth? According to the most recent transportation research, the answer is no. Experts have found that adding lanes to highways and interstates actually draws more drivers to the road, erasing many of the gains created by new construction. Extending roads and building new highways also increases the spread of suburban sprawl, which in turn makes traffic worse.

This is already happening in the Omaha-Lincoln region, where developers are contemplating construction in newly accessible areas. With the ongoing threat of development, Lincoln has been forced to agree to a study of potential development of the Stevens Creek watershed east of town.

Clearly, this region of Nebraska has enough suburban sprawl, and the expansion of I-80, instead of easing traffic, will just make things worse. The tens of millions of dollars Nebraska is set to spend on new and expanded roads could be put to much better use building and expanding the area's public-transportation system.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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