The state's banks collectively earned $409 million in the second quarter, a record for quarterly earnings.
One of Lincoln's local banks will be moving to one of downtown's most iconic buildings.
Union Bank & Trust announced Monday that it will be moving its downtown branch to the Wells Fargo Center.
Both banks currently operate at the intersection of 13th and O streets, with Union Bank in the former Miller & Paine building on the southwest corner and Wells Fargo on the northwest corner, anchoring the 11-story office complex.
The state's banks collectively earned $409 million in the second quarter, a record for quarterly earnings.
Union Bank said in a news release that it plans an extensive remodel of the banking operations space, which takes up most of the first floor of the building. The remodel, which won't be complete until next summer, will create a community meeting space in addition to a full-service bank branch and offices.
The bank said it will rename the space Union Bank Place.
Union Bank said it will keep its existing downtown branch open until the remodel is complete as well as open a temporary space in the Commerce Court building at 1230 O St. to offer limited banking services.
Angie Muhleisen, Union Bank's CEO and president, said the bank is "completely committed" to Lincoln, and the move "demonstrates our belief in downtown and the customers who live, work and frequent the area.”
The branches, which will close June 11, are being consolidated with larger branches nearby as customers move more to digital banking.
Union Bank is the second-largest bank based in Lincoln and the third-largest based in Nebraska, with nearly $6 billion in assets. It has 38 full-service and loan production offices in Nebraska and Kansas, including more than a dozen in Lincoln.
Wells Fargo has occupied the space in the 11-story building, designed by famous architect I.M. Pei, since it bought First Commerce Bancshares, parent company of National Bank of Commerce, in 2000. The building is now owned by Ameritas, another company headquartered in Lincoln.
"Union Bank will serve as another trusted beacon in one of our city’s most iconic buildings," said Downtown Lincoln Association President and CEO Todd Ogden.
Wells Fargo has not publicly announced plans to leave the space, but building permits filed in April show the bank has plans to open a branch and banking offices at 210 N. 14th St. in the former location of Rock 'N' Roll Runza.
A growing number of both local and national banks are closing and consolidating Lincoln branch locations.
Union Bank joins a number of other banks that are moving and/or consolidating downtown locations.
First National Bank of Omaha in May opened a new branch in the Canopy Lofts building at 601 R St. and closed two other downtown branches at 1340 L St. and 134 S. 13th St.
Great Western Bank plans to move its downtown branch to the first floor of the Terminal Building at 10th and O streets, which currently is undergoing a $24 million redevelopment that will transform its upper floors from offices to condos. The bank hopes to open there before the end of the year.
Ogden said that while banks are constantly evaluating and changing their physical space needs, "it’s encouraging that we continue to see their desire to have a presence downtown."
Don't Panic Labs will move from its longtime home at Eighth and P streets to a new spot in the Larson Building at 13th and Q streets.
With the contours and character of his legislative district threatened by redistricting, Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward on Monday introduced a bill to increase the size of the 49-member Legislature to 50 senators.
That would protect both his district and rural legislative representation, he said.
"I'm agreeable to make some changes," Kolterman said, "but I disagree on moving the 24th District to Sarpy County" as proposed.
With addition of one senator to the 49-member Legislature, he said, "we're not talking about getting rid of a rural district anymore" while still providing for one additional urban legislative seat.
State senators return to Lincoln on Monday for a special legislature session that is scheduled to last no more than two weeks. It may not be pretty.
"I think that seat would be in Sarpy County," Kolterman said during an interview in his state Capitol office.
The state constitution already authorizes up to 50 seats in Nebraska's unique one-house, nonpartisan Legislature.
His proposal provides the Legislature with "another arrow in the quiver" as it struggles with its redistricting assignment, Kolterman said.
His plan is "a common-sense approach" to redistricting that threatens to divide senators along partisan and rural-urban lines, Kolterman said.
"I'm willing to compromise, but I want my district to remain rural," Kolterman said. "Let's try to keep everybody whole."
Gov. Heineman took issue with the plan because it would move Saunders County from its historic home in the 1st Congressional District and make it part of the Omaha-dominated 2nd District.
Kolterman, who is approaching the final year of his two terms in the Legislature, is an influential member of the legislative body, the go-to guy on business investment incentives and the senator whom the University of Nebraska Medical Center chose to lead its effort to acquire state funding to build a blockbuster $2.6 billion national health care center.
"This wasn't even on my radar screen" when redistricting proposals began to be fashioned by members of the Legislature's redistricting committee, Kolterman said.
"I'm not mad," he said, "but I'm going to fix the problem."
Kolterman said he has asked for an attorney general's opinion to make sure his proposal can be considered.
"We're not going to fight over maps anymore," Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, chairwoman of the committee, said after the committee agreed to her suggestion to proceed in that manner rather than continue to battle with one another.
Sens. John Stinner of Gering and Matt Williams of Gothenburg have co-signed Kolterman's bill.
"If enacted, LB12 would ensure current rural legislative boundaries would remain relatively static, with the major changes occurring in rapidly growing areas where the majority of the changes should be," Kolterman said in a news release.
The Legislature opened its special session Monday with a morning meeting at which redistricting bills, including those from majority and minority members of the redistricting committee, were introduced.
Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln introduced a legislative redistricting plan (LB13) of his own.
The committee is composed of five Republicans and four Democrats, and members of each party have submitted competing plans to the Legislature.
Public hearings on the committee's proposals will be held at Central Community College in Grand Island on Tuesday, at the state Capitol in Lincoln on Wednesday and at Scott Conference Center in Omaha on Thursday.
The Republican proposal for congressional districts would split Omaha between its current home entirely in the 2nd District and move northwestern portions of the city into the 1st District, which is dominated by Lincoln.
Environmental advocates who opposed a blight designation in Air Park they said would lead to development of about 20 acres of prairie that is part of the Nine-Mile Prairie ecosystem and should be protected got some good news Monday.
The City Council voted to remove the blight proposal from its agenda, a move requested by Urban Development Director Dan Marvin.
“We’ve been meeting regularly, had a discussion with the law department, the planning department and we thought we could start this over with a different-shaped blight district that would address a number of concerns,” he said.
In July, the council voted to delay action on the land, most of which is housing west of Northwest 48th Street from West Holdrege to near Arnold Elementary, along with the disputed 20 acres that sits near the school about a half mile from the tallgrass of Nine-Mile Prairie.
City officials wanted to designate the bulk of the land, which is developed, as extremely blighted to give qualifying low-income homeowners the opportunity to apply for tax credits made possible by a 2019 change in state law.
No one opposed that, but environmental advocates said the 20 acres of undeveloped land near the school should not be developed because of its rich and diverse habitat.
They argue a master plan for the area completed in 2020 by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Grassland Studies recommends protecting the land; and developing it would go against the mayor’s Climate Action Plan.
City officials argued the extreme blight designation would actually provide more protection by adding layers of scrutiny to any development projects that might come forward. None had been offered, though a developer was interested in the land for affordable housing.
Environmental advocates had offered several alternatives, and the council was supposed to take up the issue again on Sept. 20.
Now, it’s off the table, until Marvin comes back with a new proposal.
“I’m happy,” said Marilyn McNabb, vice president of the Wachiska Audubon Society Board. “It sounds like a positive step for sure.”
Marvin told the council he hopes to expand the area to be studied for a blight designation to include land west of Northwest 56th Street to the city limits and another area north of West Holdrege and east of Northwest 48th Street.
He said an attorney who represents developers contacted the city to say they were interested in being included in the blight study and they would pay for the cost to do so. Another attorney contacted the city to say their client is interested in doing an affordable housing project in one of those areas.
Part of the land Marvin wants to include in the study is outside city limits near West Adams and west of Northwest 56th Street. It is owned by a woman who came to the council during the Nine-Mile Prairie debate to say she’s owned the land for years and has been unable to generate any interest in developing it.
Marvin told the council that even though it's outside the city limits and there are platting issues on the land, including it in the study would be an opportunity to see if it qualifies as blighted, which could help the owner.
He also wants to reconsider the area the 20 acres of undeveloped land.
“I would want to address the northern border so we can address some of the concerns raised at previous hearings,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t do that.”
Councilwoman Tammy Ward, who made the motion to remove the blight proposal from the agenda, said she was pleased.
“I do believe this is the right thing to do,” she said in an interview. “The Nine-Mile Prairie group has given us many, many ideas to consider and we're going to consider doing that and we’re going to work with the development community. I believe it needs to be slowed down.”
Jon Oberg, who owns prairie land in the area and has been involved in environmental issues for years, said Monday’s action opens the door to looking at the whole area and coming up with a plan that makes more sense than the initial proposal.
McNabb said the Audubon Society will stay involved and she hopes any future land decisions will consider the Nine-Mile Prairie environs master plan done by UNL.
“It’s a very thoughtful and careful study of how these lands connect to each other and need each other and it hadn’t gotten enough circulation so people weren’t familiar with it.”
Marvin said his primary goal has always been to offer homeowners in the area an opportunity to apply for the tax credits, which could potentially bring more than a million dollars in tax credits to homeowners over five years.
“Let's focus on that and see where we can go from there," he said.
The City Council Monday delayed a vote on land near Arnold Elementary that environmental advocates say should be protected, but others want to open for development of affordable housing.
The Lancaster County Board approved a change sought by a company wanting to expand its planned solar farm farther east. In doing so, the board rejected a recommendation that the change apply only to future outlots.
City of Lincoln looks 30 years into future, sees growth east, south and building in existing neighborhoods
City officials will release a draft of the 2050 Lincoln-Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan on Monday that emphasizes more housing in existing neighborhoods and new growth mostly to the east and south.