A 20-year, $281 million blueprint to upgrade or dispose of a crop of aging city buildings received unanimous approval from the Omaha City Council on Tuesday.
If the public facilities element of Omaha’s master plan were fully implemented, roughly half of the city’s aging fire stations would be replaced over the next 30 years. Three new police precinct station houses would be built, and the Police Department’s downtown headquarters would be renovated.
Consultants’ recommendations suggest the city shutter 38 of its 92 most-used buildings. Meanwhile, they recommended that the city build 29 replacement buildings and also add nine others to accommodate the city’s future growth.
Five community centers would be closed and four new centers built. Four library branches would be closed and rebuilt elsewhere. Three limited-service branches would open, while the city decides what to do with the main downtown library.
Omaha Public Library officials have wanted to replace the main library, but the plan suggests studying a renovation of the site because it is in relatively good condition.
For the police headquarters, a separate study last year looked at the possibility of renovating the building or building new on a different site. The new facilities plan suggests keeping the headquarters but warns that its asbestos problems “could force a closure of the building at any time.”
Consultants say the police headquarters construction accounts for 13 percent of the plan’s overall price tag. The library facility accounts for about 10 percent of the cost.
The planning blueprint, compiled by consultants BCDM Architects and DSA Inc. and city officials, cites a price tag of $281.5 million. But by closing old buildings, consultants figure the city would save $34 million in renovation costs. Council President Thomas Mulligan described the price tag as “sobering.”
Officials stressed approving the plan was not a commitment to follow every step of the plan or a promise to raise all the needed money.
“It doesn’t necessarily chart one specific course of action,” assistant planning director Chad Weaver said.
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