OMAHA — The Omaha City Council has approved a permit for another entertainment district where people can gather outdoors with their drinks and dine at restaurants.
The request approved Thursday came from Noddle Cos. for its Aksarben Village area, which has been developed where the Aksarben racetrack and other facilities once stood. The 50-foot-wide, block-long district will be known as the Inner Rail and is expected to open in mid-2019 and grow as the area further develops.
The council's 6-0 vote came despite opposition from Project Extra Mile, a group dedicated to preventing alcohol-related problems. Extra Mile's executive director, Chris Wagner, reminded the council that students at the nearby University of Nebraska at Omaha campus might be tempted to take advantage of the space.
"Just the close proximity to this campus is a major concern for us," Wagner said.
"This is not designed for the college crowd," said Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Cos, explaining that Inner Rail is intended as an area to enjoy drinks outside along with fine dining options. He also said the higher price points expected there likely would serve an older crowd.
"Maybe it's a more sophisticated crowd, maybe it's a crowd with different interests," Noddle said.
Jen Bauer, president of the Aksarben/Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association, said her group favors creation of Inner Rail.
"We feel that the Inner Rail is going to be a more grown-up rendition of an entertainment district in Omaha," she said.
The council approved an ordinance in January 2017 that allows creation of the districts. The first district approved is situated downtown and is known as the Capitol District.