The developer’s involvement with the building at the current address of 2702 South 10th Street started in February , 2004.
For many years the developer had been intrigued by the potential of South 10th Street, It connects downtown Omaha and the Henry Doorly Zoo.
In 2004, downtown Omaha seemed be be undergoing a renaissance. A new arena and convention center had opened. The Omaha Botanical Gardens, sited on a former trash bale fill overlooking the Missouri River had opened and changed its name to Lauritzen Gardens. The botanical gardens were developing and it was constructing a new visitor center at 1st and Bancroft. There was even talk of restoring the street car line in the area.
The building at 2702 South 10th was utilitarian in design. It fit in with the neighborhood of single family houses. Once it had been the corner grocery store. It ceased operation in 2002. After it closed , the walls were periodically marred by spray paint announcing the arrival of gangs and vendettas. The building was used to store junk auto parts and all of the old store fixtures and coolers.
In the middle of the winter there appeared to be people living in the cold, unheated basement. They lived by candlelight.
On the day the developer took possession water was heard hissing in the basement. Nothing could be seen because there was no electricity to light the way. The adventure was underway.
The developer was inexperienced with the restoration and operation of old commercial buildings.
It was apparent that repairs were needed. The first architect who examined the building stated that every system in the building was shot. He then declined the project.
The first general contractor, after a cursory exam of the building, was uninterested in the project.
The first order of repair was to figure out the hissing water sound. Using flashlights and temporary lighting the hissing source was located. It originated where the water pipes entered the building. It turned out that in the February freeze, one of the water lines from the city water main to the interior of the building had frozen and cracked. This problem was corrected by a backhoe removing the sidewalk and excavating to the water lines. The repair cost was an unexpected $3,500 welcome to the building.
When the building was acquired the large shop windows facing Tenth Street. were boarded up and bricked up. The building, in the midst of Omaha’s visitor and tourism area did not look inviting to visitors.
The developer had read that in other cities, art could be used in connection with a neighborhood reclamation. In the developer’s meetings with neighborhood leaders, Dave Manriquez, who was the art teacher at Bancroft Elementary School at 8th and Bancroft Street had been mentioned. Dave and the developer met, discussed ideas for the building and potential art projects. Bancroft Elementary is a kindergarten through 6th grade school.
The developer was also familiar with Mark Masuoka, who was the director of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.
Eventually a project was devised in which students from grades 2nd through 6th at Bancroft Elementary would prepare artwork which would then be selected by Bemis Center staff. The selected pieces would be enlarged to 9’ x 12’ vinyl murals to be displayed on the building exterior.
The project was known as Bemis Center Art 4 Omaha project. The Bancroft Elementary banner series was project 3.
The art project was a successful solution to a problem while building renovation was undertaken.