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Pershing Center

Pershing Center has sat vacant for four years. Now the city is trying to sell it.

Lincoln City Councilman Carl Eskridge offered a less restrictive proposal Monday related to selling Pershing Center than the original resolution by Councilman Jon Camp.

And the council delayed any decision on the resolution for a week to look at the two alternatives. 

Camp’s proposed resolution would direct the mayor to immediately begin the process of asking for requests for proposal to encourage private developers to bring their specific plans for Pershing to the city.

Eskridge's alternative amends the resolution to change the basic rationale for the sale from getting the property on the tax rolls to finding the highest and best use for the block along Centennial Mall in downtown Lincoln.

Camp’s resolution says “it is in the best interest of the city to sell Pershing Auditorium and put that property on the tax roll.”

Eskridge’s proposed amendment says “it is in the best interest of the city to continue to seek the highest and best use for this city property.”

His amendment also tones down the resolution language by simply asking Mayor Chris Beutler to open the RFP process rather than directing the mayor to do so.

And the two men defended their dueling ideas during council discussion Monday. 

“I want to see good and productive use of that property,” Eskridge said.

“I want to see something done,” said Camp, who believes the city should get serious about selling the building.

People who support putting a new main library on the Pershing block to replace the old nearby Bennett Martin Library brought their love of libraries to the public hearing Monday.

But there were also other suggestions for how the city might repurpose Pershing.

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Cecil Steward, retired dean of the University of Nebraska College of Architecture and founder of the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities, renewed the suggestion that Pershing be renovated and used as a food hub, a marketplace for local food, combined with restaurants, a greenhouse and loft residences.

Ed George, who occasionally brings comments to council hearings, suggested the building be used as a Nebraska Agriculture Historical Heritage Museum.

Following a discussion about the need for affordable rental housing in Lincoln, Jane Kinsey, representing Watchdogs of Lincoln Government, suggested turning the building into low-income apartments, using federal dollars.

You don’t need parking, she said, because the mayor "is going to have little trolleys going around that are unmanned by human beings.” She was referring to the city's recent testing of driverless vehicles.

Lincoln Independent Business Association representative Dustin Antonello supported Camp's version, telling the council that Pershing has sat vacant for far too long.

"It’s time for the mayor to get serious about selling Pershing and getting it back on the tax rolls,” he said. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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