A local suffragist reception for about 500 guests took place in the elegant third-floor ballroom in early November 1913, with singing, interpretive dancing and a “provocative one-act play, ‘How the Vote Was Won.’”
The ballroom/dining room at 11th and P streets was part of the Lincoln Commercial Club -- predecessor to the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce -- which had opened the year before.
A local newspaper article described in some detail the entertainment for the evening. “Mrs. Lillian Dobbs Helms was first on the program. She was exquisitely dressed in delicate gray, with her hair arranged in Grecian effect, banded with a cut steel ornament.”
The Lincoln women were celebrating English women getting to vote. It would be another four years before Nebraska women could vote in presidential elections and seven years before the U.S. constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote went into effect.
Now, developers plan to return that dining room/ballroom to its former glory as part of a renovation project involving two buildings at the 11th and P streets intersection.
One is the Lincoln Commercial Club, at 200 N. 11th St., built in 1911 and now home to a Misty's restaurant.
The other is an old hotel at 216 N. 11th St., built in the late 1880s and one of downtown’s oldest still-standing buildings, according to historian Ed Zimmer, who said he's not sure just how much of that 1880s building is actually left after several previous renovations.
Developers plan to add three stories to the old hotel building, converting it to a seven-story, high-end boutique hotel with about 32 rooms and a first-floor restaurant or lounge.
The ballroom space next door would be connected to the hotel and would be available for hotel guests, weddings and other entertainment, according to the plans.
“It’s probably one of the most unique and gorgeous rooms you will ever see,” said Kent Seacrest, local attorney for the redevelopers.
Under the plan, the room will retain its historic stature and be used for special events, he said.
The goal is to have the hotel complex open in time for football season in 2018.
TIF, by the dollar diverted
The city expects to have about $1 million available for tax increment financing at the 11th and P streets project. That would be the total value of a bond used to pay for parts of the project that have some public purpose.
TIF bonds are paid off using property tax revenue paid by the owner each year on the additional value of the property created by the redevelopment.
In this case, the redeveloper will pay an estimated $116,000 a year more in taxes each year after it is redeveloped, Hallie Salem with the city’s Urban Development Department told the City Council recently.
If there were no TIF bonds to pay off, that $116,000 would be divided among local governments that use local property tax revenue. Lincoln city government's share would be about $19,000 a year, or about 16 percent of the total property tax revenue.
Is that $116,000 lost property tax revenue or gravy? The answer depends on what you think of the TIF program itself.
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Under the legal definition of TIF, a redevelopment project would not have moved forward unless it got TIF. So the tax dollars would never have been generated without the help of TIF.
But for many people, who question whether every project really needs the help of TIF, the $116,000 a year -- diverted for 15 years to pay off the TIF bond -- is a taxpayer gift to the developer.
Flags, flags everywhere
Tiny flags are likely coming to a backyard (or front yard) near you, as Allo Communications and Windstream put in new cable across the city.
So here is a color primer for that flag jungle.
Red is buried electric lines, which is Lincoln Electric System in Lincoln.
Orange is typically some communication, like Windstream or Time Warner.
Yellow is the gas company.
Blue is city water.
Green is city sanitary sewer or storm sewer.
(Yellow, blue and green are typically found in the front yard, particularly in newer neighborhoods.)
White usually means a company wants to dig in that area, to let locators for the other companies know where to look and mark.
Pink is a survey marker and might be used to locate a corner of your property.
Purple shows pipes for reclaimed water that might be diverted for irrigation purposes.
The city, which recently ordered 45,000 flags for water and sewer locations, has seen an increase in locator requests over the past year, primarily because of Allo’s work.
Locator requests were up last year over the previous year. And this year they are substantially higher, based on a monthly tracking report, said Scott Opfer, with Public Works and Utilities.
More information on locator services, including the color code, is available online at Nebraska811.