A toddler, an infant and a small dog were the props for Mayor Chris Beutler’s news conference announcing plans and a $1 million donation for a park in the South Haymarket that city officials hope will help spur more development in the area.
And 2-year-old Helo Jarrett stole the show as he sat on the podium while his mother Stephanie described the virtues of a planned 6.2-acre park near downtown Lincoln.
Right on cue, he leaned over to the microphone to say “Hurray for the park.”
The J.A. Woollam Foundation has stepped forward as the lead donor in the public-private partnership for the downtown park.
The foundation, tied to the company by the same name that has made high-tech scientific instruments at 645 M St. for decades, is pledging $1 million to the Lincoln Parks Foundation, officials said at the news conference.
The previously announced housing project, northwest of Canopy and N streets, will include 194 market rate apartments and 41 affordable units for families with incomes at 60 percent of the local median income or less.
The green space south of N Street, with trail connections in all directions, "will be a downtown destination, for adults and families, and will be a catalyst for housing, offices and commercial development," said Stephanie Jarrett, Helo’s mom.
Stephanie and Paul Jarrett own Bulu Box and live downtown with their two sons and two dogs.
“This (park) is something we will use every day,” she said.
This is a public-private partnership, where businesses, nonprofits and local government will work together in a “winning combination” to “grow Lincoln’s economy and enhance our high quality of life,” said Mayor Chris Beutler as he described the development on the two blocks, a nearly 10-acre area, south of O Street that will build upon growth sparked by construction of Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The partnership includes Speedway and Nelnet, which will be responsible for 194 market rate apartments and first-floor commercial, retail and restaurant space.
The Lincoln Haymarket Development Corp. is partnering with Speedway and Nelnet to add 41 affordable housing units to the complex.
The city is using $500,000 in funds from the Urban Development Department to leverage the affordable housing portion of the project.
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The buildings, collectively known as Canopy Park, will be built in a "U" shape, with a shared courtyard in the middle and a total private investment of about $38.7 million.
The unnamed park, which will be an extension of the housing complex's courtyard, is expected to cost about $9 million, including $1.5 million for a maintenance endowment, said Lynn Johnson, Parks and Recreation Department director.
The purchase of the parkland is a complicated arrangement between the city, the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency, which oversees the Pinnacle Bank Arena, and the city Parks Foundation.
The West Haymarket JPA, a three-member quasi government group that includes the mayor, is giving land for the park — at 215 S. Seventh St., where the Demma Fruit Co. building stands — to the Lincoln Parks Foundation.
The foundation will then sell the property to the city for $1.1 million, with the stipulation the land be dedicated to parkland in perpetuity, explained J.J. Yost with the Parks and Recreation Department.
The city will pay $1.1 million for that land, using money from the Urban Development Department's advanced land acquisition fund. That money comes from the sale of city land and then is used to purchase new public property.
The $1.1 million purchase is a required match for the Woollam donation, Johnson said.
With donations and the land exchange, the city has about $4 million of the $9 million needed to create the park, Beutler said during the news conference.
The Parks and Recreation Department will seek community review and comment on what should be included in the park and plaza area this summer. But Johnson expects there will be a dog park since that need comes up in most conversations with downtown residents.
The park will include a trail connection between N and J streets and provide a link between downtown and the trail system extending in all directions, Beutler said.
Agreements related to the project and the land exchange will go to the West Haymarket JPA on April 25 and the City Council on April 29.