When I was growing up, my brothers and I ran around the neighborhood doing what boys do. We jumped neighbors’ fences, climbed trees, played in the dirt, fell through the convertible top of the classic car parked down the alley (wasn’t me, I swear!). We would hit each other with sticks and throw dirt clods at each other. We had epic battles involving everything from soldiers to cowboys, from pirates to aliens, sometimes all at once.
We would play until the street lights beckoned us home for dinner. We would all spill through the back door bloodied, bruised, muddied, and exhausted. Mom would ask us, “And what have you been up to?” Now, if you read my post about the Porch Ladies, you would know that this was a trick question. Still, we would always answer with “Nuthin!”
It wasn’t that we were wanting to hide anything from her. It was just that what we were out doing was so much a part of our everyday that it seemed mundane to tell her – and we especially knew that she would be bored to hear about the convertible roof.
Well, lately I’ve been running around the neighborhood again which has kept me from posting recently. I have gotten a couple of people asking, “And what have you been up to?” To which I have habitually replied, “Nuthin!” This is definitely not true. I have decided that maybe it would be good for you to really know. Plus, I have completely avoided convertible cars for years, so I have nothing to hide.
Siding Project (Personal)
The hail storm of August 2011 allowed us to put a new roof on our home which was badly needed. Christmas Eve last year, the last shingle went on, and, for the first time since we bought the house in 2007, we have only one kind of roofing. We even passed on the new gutters and window screens in order to get the really fancy triple-laminated, hail and fire resistant super shingles (apparently in case something biblical happens with fire and ice falling from the sky). Since the roof looked so nice, I decided the rest of the house could use a little updating, too.
Soooooo . . . I
tore the siding off am tearing the siding off. Not the original siding (all you preservationists can breathe a sigh of relief). I’m talking the asbestos tile siding put on in presumably the late 40’s or early 50’s (don’t breathe that sigh too deeply, asbestos is bad news). This has been slow going as I can only send a few bags at a time, properly wrapped and labeled of course, to the landfill. I get overwhelmed at times and stand on the sidewalk staring at my house trying to wrap my head around the next step. So, if you ever see me out there just looking at my house, pat me on the back and reassure me to take it one step at a time.
Status: Work in progress
Now, pertaining to neighborhood projects, I kind of have a hard time keeping track of all the things I’ve started, but I’ll do the best I can to recap.
Minne Lusa Bike-Share
All through the summer, I have been laying the groundwork for a bike-sharing program for Minne Lusa. Here’s the idea: Minne Lusa is looking to have between 4-6 bikes available for neighbors to use for free if they need to exercise or run to the grocery store or simply go for a picnic with the family. I hope that by doing this we can increase bicycle awareness and culture in the area, support local businesses, reduce emissions, improve neighbor health, and create a unique identity for the neighborhood. We’re also hoping local businesses join in supporting us by making sure they offer bike racks and also maybe offering a discount to riders on a Minne Lusa bike. I have been working with the city and a couple of local groups to get info on how to get this up and running.
Status: Work in progress
Historic Parks and Boulevards Master Plan
I won’t give you a history lesson here, so I encourage you to research a little bit about Omaha’s Historic Parks and Boulevards System. It was a big deal in its day and rightfully so. It was a beautiful way to quickly move from place to place across town. It was designed for attractive views and quick commutes.
Though it has lost much of its original notoriety, it is still an integral part of Omaha’s streetscape today. Minne Lusa has been influential in recent design meetings with the city about how best to revitalize and re-brand this historic gem of the city. Our input has helped establish design guidelines and project priorities for the city. This won’t be something done in the next year or two, but it is instead a comprehensive plan to be implemented in portions over the coming decade. Check out the details here. Really exciting stuff.
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed many young people and families moving into the area. I try to talk to them as they walk on the Boulevard, but it’s hard to have much conversation with kids or dogs peeing on your shoes, so off they go. I have encouraged many of them to come to the Neighborhood Association meetings (which are on the 1st Thursday of every month in the Miller Park Pavilion at 7PM, in case you were wondering). Some have come, few have come back.
Instead, I decided I just need to meet these people on neutral territory and get to know them. I also wanted them to get to know each other. In the middle of October, I sent out 8 invites to a few people in the area to come to a Backyard Bonfire. We met at the Minne Lusa House for chili, beverages, and conversation. If you didn’t get an invite, don’t worry. We’ve got another in the works for mid-late January. Let me know if you’re interested in showing up or know someone we should invite.
Trick-or-Treat on the Boo-levard
Minne Lusa has always had a reputation for being a premier trick-or-treat spot in the area. The past few years have seen some decline in its popularity and involvement. However, this year we held the first annual Trick-or-Treat on the Boo-levard.
We had a “Not-So-Haunted House” for the littlest kiddos, which was basically a tent with volunteers in costumes handing out candy amid decorations. We gave out about 200 hot dogs (called hallo-weiners. Get it? Yeah, it’s ok to laugh and/or roll your eyes). We had “Spook Island” on the north end of the Boo-levard where kids could get popcorn, juice boxes, and an unexpected visit from one of the “decorations.” Neighbors raved about the event and pledged their involvement for next year. We were featured in the Omaha World Herald as one of the 5 best spots in Omaha to trick-or-treat. Next year is already looking to be bigger and better with a photo booth for taking keepsake photos of your kiddos in costume, a hot cocoa stand, and *possibly* a petting area with goats and rabbits. If there’s anything we do that can put Minne Lusa on the map, it’s this event.
What’s better than spending the holidays wandering into neighbors’ houses and drinking their wine before rambling out the door with an assortment of hors d’ouevres on your way to another lovely house with more wine and neighbors? We’re working on a Wine Walk along Florence Boulevard as an opportunity for neighbors to get together for fine food and drink with the opportunity to view and tour some of the larger and grander homes in our area. This is still in concept stages, but we’ve had a lot of interest in it so far.
If there’s anything that’s conspicuously absent in Minne Lusa, it is quality dining and retail establishments. You want dollar stores? We’ve got those. But signature dining experiences? We’re running a little short since Mr. C’s closed on September 30, 2007. While we do have some good eating establishments in the area, we lack a signature establishment in the immediate proximity of Minne Lusa. Retail is nonexistant unless you consider dollar stores and secondhand shops. Grocery stores aren’t faring any better. We have the last Baker’s in Omaha to get updated, our NoFrills has a reputation for spoiled produce and outdated dairy, and we lack anything with an organic food presence. If you were to take a snapshot of our area retail/shopping/dining establishments, you might be led to believe that we prefer to buy anything priced at $1. I’m trying to woo Trader Joe’s to move into a building on 30th Street instead of putting a location downtown. This has been a bit of a tough pitch and I need a lot of community support to back me up on it. Go here to ask for a location in Minne Lusa.
Nomination to National Register of Historic Places
Fake it till you make it. We’ve all heard it, and some of us have done it. Well, I’ve referred to Minne Lusa as an Historic District for a while now without any formal designation to back that up. I’ve essentially been “faking it.” However, I’ve been working with the Nebraska State Historical Society, the City of Omaha Planning Dept, and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture to write a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places to have Minne Lusa officially listed as an Historic District. This has been my pet project. It’s been a huge priority for me since moving here in 2007. I’m certainly not the first to have this idea. A lot of preliminary work was done to pave the way for me to push for this idea. I have been helped along immensely by people in each of the offices listed above. There has been huge support from other neighborhoods, the city, the state, as well as our own neighbors. This has confirmed to me that this is a project whose time has come. When we first started this effort, we were told to expect that only Minne Lusa Blvd and maybe Redick Ave might be considered. Currently, however, we are working on including 70% of the neighborhood, making this one of the largest (if not the single largest) historic districts in Omaha. This will be a huge win for Minne Lusa when it comes to establishing a brand recognition to help market the area to future homeowners and prospective businesses. I can’t wait to see this come to fruition. If anyone is intersted in helping with the research, we’d be glad for the assistance.
Status: Work in progress
Then there’s the Facebook Page and this blog. These projects and a hundred others constantly keep me running. I love, love, LOVE doing this. I wish I could make this my profession so I didn’t have to interrupt these projects to go earn a paycheck. I wholeheartedly believe in Minne Lusa and will do everything I can to make sure the rest of Omaha knows about and comes to love this amazing neighborhood. So, now, if you see me running around the neighborhood bloodied, bruised, muddied, and exhausted, you’ll know that I’m just up to more “nuthin!”
Hopefully, this gives you an insight into the awesome things in the works for our neighborhood and spurs something inside you to want to jump in.
If you are interested in being involved in anything I’ve mentioned here, or if you have your own pet project, let me know. Many hands make light work. Minne Lusa needs people to be passionate about it for it to be brought back to its full potential, and I just have a hunch that you just might be the person we need.