Community input is the focus of a commendable new initiative to promote development along North 24th Street and surrounding neighborhoods. This approach has encouraging potential to provide new opportunity for the historic heart of north Omaha.

The initiative, titled Forever North, encourages public buy-in so that goals are compatible with residents’ needs and preferences. Housing and transportation needs are two of the main discussion points.

Two community workshops were organized so residents could speak with consultants and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency about neighborhood needs.

People from north Omaha’s Malcolm X Memorial Foundation Center started going door to door to seek opinions.

“We’re trying to use every method we can to connect to the people who this will affect the most,” said LaVonya Goodwin, a businesswoman and nonprofit leader who is on a community stakeholder committee of Forever North.

Forever North will build existing planning strategies already adopted by the city government. MAPA is supporting the effort through a $100,000 mini-grant of state funds, plus $25,000 from the city of Omaha.

The project involves the area from Cuming Street to Ames Avenue, between 20th Street and the Kennedy Freeway. North 24th Street is the central corridor.

Residents have indicated that they want a variety of housing types, including affordable rental housing, senior housing and single-family, owner-occupied homes, said Jeff Spiehs, MAPA’s community relations manager.

The area has seen positive development, including the $2.4 million Fair Deal Village Marketplace, The Union for Contemporary Art and the under-construction Heart Ministry Center. Apartments and town houses were built several years ago. New businesses include restaurants, a coffee shop and a business that serves shaved ice.

“There’s tangible proof of positive change and investment,” Goodwin said.

Indeed. With community input and proper coordination, Forever North offers hope for further progress ahead.

Omaha World-Herald