Battle Over Century-Old Apartment Complex Near Midtown Crossing Continues

By: Melina Matthes

OMAHA (kptm) - An historic piece of Omaha may be going away soon.

The Clarinda-Page apartment complex could be demolished if the city revokes its landmark status.

Dozens showed up to voice their opinion while the landmark board met to weigh both sides.

The final vote on whether or not to take away its status was supposed to be Wednesday., but things didn't go as planned.

It's a tale of old versus new.

The real estate company buying buildings and land on both sides of Farnam wants to continue developing Midtown Crossing.

To do that, they want to tear down the apartment buildings.

However, so many people came to fight for the century old Clarinda-Page apartment complex that the vote was postponed.

The reason why? It took so long that one of the voting members had to leave.

The Clarinda-Page was declared an Omaha landmark in 1981. "It's a piece of history that I believe needs to be considered and kept as a part of any kind of new development in the area. There aren't very many buildings like this left," President of Restoration Exchange said.

The Page is currently vacant and the city has deemed it unfit for people to live in.

However the Clarinda was renovated in 2007. Many that live there ask that it's landmark status remains. "I implore you to see the Clarinda and Page the way that I have. As a lens through which to view Omaha's distinct and storied past. Do not deny Omaha's future generations of this complex. Allow them to be a part of history that is alive and well in the Clarinda and Page," Maureen Fitzgerald said.

However, one tenant believes he made a bad investment buying a condo at the Clarinda.

He said he bought it for $97,000 but it's valued at $42,000 now. He asks the board to remove the landmark status. "It's for the better of my town and the place that I call home. I fear for myself and I fear for my part of town if this doesn't happen because of what will. What will this building do in the future? In five years? If we...because there's currently nothing there, there's no hope for me," Jack Henry said.

Others say the Clarinda-Page is deteriorating. The building has numerous code violations including problems with electrical systems and plumbing. Many ask the city to bail the owners out. "They're just dying on the vine. There's nothing they can do. They're in a horrible economic situation and the only way they can get out of this horrible economic situation is to have this landmark rescinded so they can get out of it and the property can be put into a better productive use and that's probably it's demise and demolition and re-development of a new structure of some kind," Lawyer, Larry Jobeun said.

The majority of people in Wednesday's meeting don't want the building to be demolished.

They said it's not perfect but that doesn't justify tearing it down. Many said they are okay with it be renovated.

Some even talked about keeping the parts of the structure that make it a landmark and just adding new architecture to it.

But for now, the voice of the people has spared this building's life.

The board plans to make its decision on whether the Clarinda-Page will remain an Omaha landmark in March. The final say will then be decided by the city council.