A little bird had tipped me to the soon-to-be demise of seven homes on Pacific Street extending from 84th to 87th. –that strip of mostly classic ranches on the south side, leading down to the lights at Countryside Village and Westside High. This news caught me surprised, as I had just been toodling in the area a week before. Long experience had shown me these Mid-Century Modern Ranches were, in fact, the District 66 Markers, kitted out with all of the adornment of post World War II America. If you concentrated, and half shut your eyes, the charming grouping of homes again formed into their once confident suburban silhouette. It is these reminders of the architectural history of Omaha that fill me with wonder and a special enchantment with the Loveland District.
Yes, it is true; a few of these homes had looked forlorn of late– a bit disarranged but only of a tousled sort. I told myself it was the grimy splashes of busy Pacific; I had assessed some of these gals to be rental homes, if only because of the outstanding number of cars often seen in the drives. Then again, part of the historic purpose of these huge, wide driveways was to host the Westside weekend keggers of the 80s and 90s, but what did I know of that? (That private tennis court for a midnight game, though!) Mr. Cassette claimed the one on the corner had looked a little hinky since his childhood and this was his stomping ground, after all. But the picture was much broader than our colorful speculation over coffee and these seven homes were just recent prey. Of the last decade, the low, broad, clean-cut, 1950s Ranches of District 66 had fallen under attack and were being scraped at an ever-quickening pace, in favor of the multitude of cascading, hipped roof Millennium Mansions.
It was not long before I discovered that this good stretch of Pacific was rapidly developing into one of the new focal points of the area. These seven, large parcels (all about an acre in size) had been acquired by a developer and were rumored to be razed, in order to build 18 single-family units bordering a new cul-de-sac. It was so strange…and here I though Mid-Century Modern was enjoying a comeback.
We drove slowly, inching down Pacific, for the view was shocking. Each home’s once expansive front sweep of lawn had been ravaged—all manner of shrub and tree wrenched from their proud posts. We parked the car and walked through the rubble. The scent of strong, old tree roots, pine needles, resin and freshly overturned soil was strong in the air. The Loveland canopy was nearly gone. It was possible to do a great deal of prowling around with a camera and Way-Past-Appropriate-Peering in windows–the way Miss Cassette has always dreamed it could be, minus the Apocalyptic emptiness and demolition tactics.
Friends, I will not write the long saga of the wonderful families and good times on this swath of Pacific, although we can all assume their experiences were shared bliss. We will skip the painful story of how the news of this latest financial folly was broken to the neighborhood. Eavesdropping at the Village Grinder will reveal a mixed bag of opinion and swivel-eyed looks. I had a very shrewd suspicion I would be booted out in the cold if I had any say in the matter beyond a pleasant, non-committal nodding. In my estimation it is this variance of local opinion that has allowed this large acquisition and project to get underway. But more on that later…
From what the My Omaha Obsession detective’s office can gather, SNC Investments LLC of 11823 Arbor Street #100, began buying up the lots one by one in the 2000s. The properties have now largely transitioned into the D & L Real Estate Group LLC name, under the same address. Royce Enterprises, Inc. is the developer, according to the recently uploaded preliminary plat application through the City of Omaha Planning Department. These plans are also being shared and discussed within the Nextdoor Loveland site.
Aerial map outlining the seven properties. Image from the plat application was uploaded by the City of Omaha Planning Department. The furthest east property, a stone ranch home at 8403 Pacific, is miraculously not included in the new acquisition and development.
On October 30, 2019 Royce Enterprises, Inc. filed a preliminary plat approval to the City of Omaha Planning Department for their new “Estates of Loveland.” This subdivision, within the Longview subdivision (confusingly within the Loveland District, which is also within District 66 bounds) will integrate a cul-de-sac and 18 single-family lots on the previous seven lots, extending 7.2 acres. There will be no direct access to Pacific Street from any of the 18 lots. “As designed, the proposed street may provide for a through-street connection to 81st Street at some time in the future.” This is very odd. They might have erroneously labeled it 81st Street when they meant 84th Street. We can only hope.
Of a curious note: Under Land Use and Planning, the applicant wrote, “ The project furthers the goal of the Concept element of the Master Plan regarding infill development, including encouraging ‘the development of infill housing which makes use of vacant land and existing under-utilized central city infrastructure’ and providing ‘good quality housing’ options in a ‘mix of patterns, types and styles.’” I find this a strange use of the concept of infill. Seven elongated properties in the Loveland area are normal use for this area. One had a massive tennis court for Pete’s Sake. I would argue that was the original purpose of Historic Loveland District—the hope of having a country estate. The draw of the Longview Addition was a Mid-Century Modern home on an equally large lot. These were the alluring particulars that drove families to the area. These are not vacant lots and for that matter, I can think of much better “under-utilized” spaces in town of which to design housing. It is hard to fathom why City Planning and the City Council would accept this misuse of the Master Plan concept.
On a considerable scale, these 18 single-family “high end homes” are projected to cost between $450,000-$850,000. One birdie told me the developer “lives on Loveland Drive and his back yard will abut the development.” I have also heard perhaps mistaken rumors that the Estates of Loveland “will be million dollar condos” and “that box-style of rowhouses with no green space.” Royce Enterprises, Inc. is behind the Papillion Commons, a 110-acre project, between 84th and 90th Streets and north of Nebraska Highway 370.
A study of the plat map below, let alone the logistics of 18 residences where there once were seven, hints these homes will most likely be built right out to the edges of these properties. Wedged to the envelope, so to speak. This most likely means a double garage will be the architectural focal point of the homes with little to no garden space. If the numbers are anywhere near correct, in order to get $450,000-$850,000 out of the buyers, potential homeowners will be expecting a lot of house—meaning these homes will have to pretty much touch one another at the property line. For more on this building technique, check out: https://myomahaobsession.com/2018/10/01/the-ballad-of-balla-machree/
Let’s be honest. Some neighbors are excited for the Estates of Loveland and offer up that these ranches on Pacific had looked bedraggled in the last decade. But I ask–would the properties have looked sagging and forlorn if single-family owners were given the chance to purchase and give them the loving care they deserved? I recognize that SNC Investments bought the homes fair and square. When a company strategizes to buy up a swath of parcels, meanwhile rents them out, lets them get run down, while slowly stockpiling their dream plat, of course this strip looked worn by Loveland District standards. This was all done legally but one could assume allowing the properties run down was all part of shaping public opinion. I am open to corrections.
I would review the Omaha permits site for demolition applications and find nothing as of yet. The exact date/s of demolition must remain a mystery for now. If anyone has architect’s renderings that you’d like to share with us, please do.
The Longview Homes
I have written often of the District 66 neighborhoods, to include the Longview Addition. Craving more about Loveland and the Longview Addition? –check out: The Real Estate Secret Agent: 8459 Woolworth Avenue. Theirs is a fine, sizeable assemblage of quality houses that have stood for decades and aged well. The proud owners have cared for these historic Mid-Century homes, well aware they possess a local character that is clearly Early Omaha Suburb. The expansive lawns, rolling countryside feel and mature trees are as much a part of this glorious community. Not downtown, not Dubai and certainly not 150th Street. The very integrity, maintenance, architecture and culture of this environment are what have brought many developers sniffing about, after all.
Map of the Longview Addition borrowed from the Douglas County Assessor’s site.
The first public showing of real estate in the Longview Addition was shortly after the end of World War II. In October of 1945 the T. H. Maenner Company encouraged Omahans to take a long Sunday drive out to “see Omaha’s finest suburban home district. The Longview Addition is located on Pacific Street from 84th west to 90th Street.”
1945 image borrowed from the OWH archives.
Within a month six lots had been sold and by 1946, homes were springing up on the winding roads of the countryside.
1946 image borrowed from the OWH archives.
By the time our great homes along Pacific Street were being built and sold, the lovely language of the hopeful 1950s ranches was “The Dream Homes of Longview,” “Ranch Beauties,” and “A Longview Rancho in Stone and Frame.” Aren’t those cool?
The residence on the eastern most side of the grouping at 8403 Pacific Street was not acquired for the new development. The perfect stone ranch, legally named “Lot 21, Block 1,” was constructed in 1953 and will remain a vestige to the old group. Please Carry On, 8403 Pacific! Photo from the Douglas County Assessor’s site.
Pretty photo from the Douglas County Assessor’s site. Current photo of load-out demo day by author. 8407 Pacific Street was logged as being built in 1953, but the World-Herald archives describe a “stone-faced rambler” was for sale by 1951. The Williams family was early short-term owners. At 1,530 square feet, the home has three large bedrooms, 2 baths and like most ranches, a massive fireplace. “Lot 20, Block 1,” was purchased by SNC LLC back in 2007.
8413 Pacific Street. Lot 19, Block 1 is a 1,305 square feet home of stone and frame. The Assessor lists it as built in 1954. It sits on a 1.04-acre lot. I also found error, in that the OWH archives reveal it was up and housing a family by 1951. The Willis Avery family called this split level or raised ranch beauty their home. A 1965 ad boasted of a marble fireplace, two master bedrooms, a pine kitchen with dining area, complete with built-ins, and a paneled rec room. I do love a good pine kitchen.
8415 Pacific Street, Lot 18, Block 1. The Michael Danze family sold their home to SNC Investments LLC in 2010. Built in 1954, this large five bedroom, 4-bath abode was early on the Richard Abel family residence. “This Loveland all brick, long, low and rambling ranch offers prestige and sought after convenience for the new purchaser. Beautifully landscaped and established premises reached from daylight basement with huge, finished recreation room. Five bedrooms plus cozy family room. Separate dining room. Rear living room accented by stone fireplace wall.”
My Favorite of the Bunch. I adore this house! I dream of this house. I only wish I could afford to move this big girl. 8417 Pacific Street, Lot 17, Block 1. Built in 1957, this gorgeous ranch offered 2,205 square feet, four bedrooms, four baths originally. 1962 marketing called this “a country estate in the heart of Loveland. “Seven nice rooms, plus a two-room apartment, a large family room, a separate den, a rec room and a hobby room.” My stars! It was sold to SNC Investments in 2011.
Lot 16, Block 1 was built in 1955. The 1,934 square foot home was that of the James Eastman family until they sold to SNC Investments in 2008.
8625 Pacific Street
Lot 15, Block 1. Built in 1954, this Rancho was once thought to be an impressive corner lot on the southeast side of 87th and Pacific. Westside High is across the street to the west. Of all the homes in this grouping, this is the one that Mr. Cassette and I longed to fix up the most. We knew exactly what to do with her! SNC Investments purchased in 2017, according to real estate records in the World-Herald.
1965 marketing snippet borrowed from the OWH archives. Better days.
1125 South 87th Street, Lot 14 Block 1, around the corner and to the south is a fantastic 1955 home. The trees and property are beautiful. A 1,446 square foot frame and brick rancho, she has three bedrooms, a fireplace with a formal dining room.
There are many reasons to shut the bathroom door and cry to oneself. The landscape is changing before our eyes. Local character, regional identity and charm once found in the new-built environment are largely gone. I was born decades after most places of quality and character were erected in this town, except for a handful of incredible, 1970s architects with a wonderful resume. Compared to my younger friends, I am lucky to have even seen the late 70s and 80s and still remember what was just here. Legislation, lobbyists and greedy developers have foisted a cheap, ugly degradation of architecture across the country. It’s not just Omaha. It is planned obsolescence, plain and simple. Architects, at least the ones who are true design stewards, wanting to create honorable buildings that stand the test of time, would appear to work in isolation, made to feel at odds within the short-term profit system.
We are part to blame. There is little resistance in Omaha to the fast and cheap method of building, at the loss of quality architecture and our shared history. When quick profits are the developer’s driving focus and landfill-quality materials are the current building norm, it is no wonder new development just doesn’t register with us after a few months. Those that have advocated, end up frustrated when they realize the powers that be all golf together. And let’s be honest, some of us are dazzled by anything New and Sparkly. We are easily swayed. The flat box-in-the-box-cartoon style urban structures and the awkward multi-roof McMansions of the suburbs offer an inauthentic, hollow experience that age all to swiftly. Soon the brick façade is dripping in that sad white stain they all end up with but by that time, an owner is ready to move on to the next trend. Honestly, aside from my feeble attempts, I don’t know how to get people interested in the importance of tradition when we are inundated in a self-indulgent, throw away culture. Our buildings reflect that empty pursuit.
The Loveland-District 66 neighbors who do care about their investment in the historical properties of this fine area to include their gorgeous Loveland Elementary School, have felt the pressure to create and apply for a local historic district status. Bravo! Not only will this aid to educate the community about the entire Loveland neighborhood, it will hopefully attract owners who long to rehabilitate these beautiful properties, ensuring continued cohesiveness and less of the assemblage, factory-built Millennial houses and school buildings of late.
The Omaha City Planning Department should not just process building applications willy-nilly, focusing on single buildings and single projects. Needs assessments and local surveying could help tremendously among area homeowners, potential first time buyers and current renters to guide Omaha away from building more unpopular, ungracious, soul-crushing structures. Couldn’t this start now? What about a needs assessment of the Loveland-District 66 area? What are the preferences of the locals who will have to live next to these buildings? When these large developments are being designed for a historic neighborhood such as Loveland, quality materials, beauty-enhancing characteristics, and traditional architecture should harmonize with the surroundings and reflect continuity. Need I add the tremendous loss of the “natural” environment over this last week. Some of those trees were sixty plus years old.
From investigating these stories I know Omaha has a long history of being shortsighted and firing up the wrecking ball. This comes top down. But we have an equally long history of regular and well-heeled citizens fighting for our old architecture and some semblance of taste when it comes to new development. Honestly there have been more strides in taste shaping than in saving buildings. The problem of the last fifteen years is the shift in landownership privacy– LLCs, shell companies and covert, plotting land grabs. No one sees it coming. Back in the 1950s everyone would know who was behind a new development and some good ol’ boys could discuss matters in a reasonable way at the club. Currently it is damn near impossible to stop these designs once in motion and that is the perfection of the LLC. It keeps everyone at bay. OPS and District 66 schools are also guilty. So it means that citizens rely on local government to work in our best interest. Considering the tax revenues, city jobs created, overall lack of savvy about the built environment and nonexistent respect of history, have proven we cannot trust these entities. We are where we are.
It has been suggested in other cities, where they have the same problems with overt uglification of new buildings, that City Council, City Planning, school boards, small business leaders, other government, developers, neighborhood associations and architects gather to look at photos and renderings of building styles. They gather together, study and discuss what they see. It sounds remedial but this elementary pictorial experience can be a tool to help those in power “see” what citizens truly like and want to see built around them. Could this get the discussion started? Loveland, you deserve better.
This is only a small part of the story. I welcome your feedback and comments on the Loveland area, the Estates of Loveland project, new buildings and old homes. Please feel free to leave a thought in Comments. I welcome you to poke around with your flashlight. Investigate. Hide in the shrubbery. Look under these rocks and down those alleyways. I am more than pleased to have you tiptoe about. By the time you head for home, I hope you have been fully Sherlocked and Satiated. Thank you, detective friends.
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