Lincoln’s urban growth: A sight for sore eyes


Multimedia by Andy Vipond, NewsNetNebraska

In the heart of the Haymarket sits The Mill coffee shop. Owner Dan Sloan has been around long enough to see the rapid change of the Haymarket and Lincoln. The Mill, located on 8th and P streets, started 40 years ago in the back of a bike shop where Sloan worked.  As an accounting student, he stayed with the shop long enough to eventually take over the business and run it himself.

“We moved the shop to the Haymarket at the time for all the great parking there was,” Sloan said. “Now you can’t get anywhere.”

The reason is the new urban feeling that’s spreading across Lincoln. An urban city, by definition according to National Geographic, is “an urban area in the region surrounding a city. Most inhabitants of urban areas have non-agricultural jobs. Urban areas are very developed, meaning there is a density of human structures as houses, commercial buildings, roads, bridges and railways.”

But that hasn’t changed how Sloan approaches the changing look of the Haymarket. Coffee shops are known for their regulars and Sloan likes it that way. He said the building of the Haymarket was a game changer. It brought four to five new hotels, but no new coffee shops, which set The Mill in prime position to attract customers.

“What we’ve done to adapt to the changing look of Lincoln and the Haymarket is we have a full face lift to our current location,” he said. “New floors, a new training program for our staff and some behind the scenes stuff.”

What it didn’t do is change their menu or chase the fad that was happening on the West Coast with the rise of Starbucks.

“It can get competitive, but it’s the name of the game,” he said.

Sloan said The Mill was never a growth-for-growth-sake. It love its regulars and all new customers that come in and try their coffee. With a second store on Prescott Avenue, Sloan said the talk about a third store may be looked at.

“Don’t be surprised if you see a third Mill in the near future,” he said.

A barista makes a cup of a coffee with extra whip cream for a customer. Andy Vipond, NewsNetNebraska

A barista makes a cup of a coffee with extra whip cream for a customer. Andy Vipond, NewsNetNebraska

He said the growth of the Haymarket is what attracts people to his store and others around him. He doesn’t want to see that dwindle.

“Lincoln, especially coffee shops, are a melting pot. It’s a place to see all kinds of people,” he said. “I think no matter what the growth of Lincoln and the Haymarket are what keeps the city thriving and alive.”

LPlan 2040

While The Mill is only one of many shops in the Haymarket that might be affected, the rest of Lincoln and Lancaster County are expected to grow. The first place to look is the Lincoln Planning Commission. LPlan 2040 lays out the vision and projections of what Lincoln citizens can look forward to with their city. In the plan it says, “The core promise embedded in LPlan 2040 is to maintain and enhance the health, safety and welfare of our community during times of change, to promote our ideals and values as changes occur, and to meet the needs of today without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

The plan also outlines predictions for population by 2040. The most recent numbers to start from are the 2010 Census. In 2010, Lincoln made up 90.5 percent of the population in Lancaster County. Lincoln’s population was 258,379. The rest of Lancaster County was 27,028. A current estimate of Lincoln’s population is 273,000 whereas the rest of Lancaster County is 33,468. By 2040, it is projected that 90 percent of the population in Lancaster County will live in Lincoln, 4 percent in small towns and the other 6 percent in the other category. That is 371,700 people will live in Lincoln and 41,300 people will make up the rest of Lancaster County. Between 2010 and 2040 it is projected that 127,193 people will live in Lancaster County while 113,321 of that population will reside in Lincoln.

Downtown Lincoln, including the Haymarket, will continue to thrive and LPlan 2040 ensures that it wants it to remain that way. On page 3 of the Vision & Plan section of LPlan 2040 it says, “It (Downtown Lincoln) is also emerging as an attractive place to live, becoming an increasingly vibrant mixed use neighborhood.”

Population and employment growth

Along with LPlan 2040, more recent reports are keeping track of population and employment growth in Lincoln and Lancaster County. The Lincoln and Lancaster County Indicators Report tracks year-to-year growth which the Lincoln Planning Commission uses when they do their long term projections. The recent numbers are from April 2016, here is how it breaks down:

  • Since 2000, Lancaster County has an annual growth rate of 1.33 percent
  • Lincoln has an annual growth rate of 1.3 percent since 2001
  • Employment in Lancaster County, as well as Lincoln, is projected to grow 1.16 percent per year up until 2040

Lincoln and Lancaster County are growing annually and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

A more in-depth look

As a professor of community and regional planning at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Gordon Scholz has studied LPlan 2040 closely as well as the development of the Haymarket. He said the Haymarket started out as a warehouse district but has turned into a redevelopment phenomenon.

“In terms of the time period in which it has happened, I think it has surprised some of the planners how much growth there has been,” he said. “There’s so much interest in companies locating there and people wanting to go there.”

He said it has been a vitalizing force in making people want to go downtown and will be a significant part of the downtown culture. He also said it will be hard to predict if places like the Railyard and people flocking to PBA will drive local businesses that have been there for years if the new urban look spreads throughout the Haymarket.

“I do think there is a local degree of loyalty to businesses in Lincoln and some of the ones that have been in the Haymarket for several years,” he said.

Antelope Valley Project

Another major redevelopment project is the Antelope Valley Project. Scholz said the main purpose of the project was to deal with the flood problems Lincoln had been experiencing. The other two goals were to ease and make transportation more accessible and to redevelop neighborhoods.

When this project got the OK in 2004, Lincoln City Councilman Jon Camp was on board with the project but had questions about it. He didn’t want the project to take away from small businesses while bigger businesses thrived, but he also didn’t want to discourage the bigger businesses coming in and taking a chance on it. Camp still agrees with his statement to this day.

Scholz agrees with Camp because there is no way of finding out. But there is no way of finding out unless risks are taken he said.

Floodwater damage was a key issue in the project. The project cost estimated $249 million upon its completion but still didn’t deal with the flood problems. Two storms in the past three years have caused Antelope Creek to flood as badly as it did in 2003, which was when the idea for the project came about. But the focus has been more on housing and redevelopment than flood control.

The project includes the areas of north, east and southeast of traditional downtown and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and includes the neighborhoods of North Bottoms, Clinton, Malone/Hawley, Woods Park, Near South and Downtown.

Antelope Square under construction that will provide multi-level homes to low income families. Andy Vipond, NewsNetNebraska.

Antelope Square under construction that will provide multi-level homes to low-income families. Andy Vipond, NewsNetNebraska.

The most recent completion of the project is Antelope Creek Village in 2013. It is located in the Malone/Hawley Neighborhood between 23rd and 24th streets, and P and Q streets. The village offers 18 townhouses to first time home buyers and most units will have two to three bedrooms.

The current construction underway is the Antelope Square. It is located at 22nd and Q street. The development will offer a 24 town home-complex for low income families. No estimation is given yet for the completion.

Scholz said it was a matter of time before redevelopment really took off in Lincoln.

“Most of these projects are privately funded, so the taxpayer shouldn’t see a huge increase in taxes or property taxes,” he said. “As a citizen, I am proud of the way Lincoln cares about the quality of life and its effort to improve that. I’m excited to see this city keep growing.”

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