Vacant buildings attract homeless; possible property violation

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7510 & 7520 Dodge Street. Photo by Jessica Wade

Jessica Wade; Will Patterson

7510 & 7520 Dodge Street

The buildings at 7510 & 7520 Dodge Street, formerly a Bag ‘N Save grocery store and a Best Buy retail store, were once tied into a vision of renovation with Main Street Partners, LLC proposed redevelopment plan for the Crossroads Mall. A plan that sputtered to a stop in 2017 when, according to an Aug. 18, 2017  Omaha World-Herald news article, Mayor Jean Stothert withdrew the city’s tentative incentives offer for Crossroads Mall after the developer sent “deficient” redevelopment plans and failed to meet multiple deadlines.

The former Bag ‘N Save has been vacant for roughly 13 years. The property on which it sits is owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that is separate from the University of Nebraska and assists people and organizations who wish to support any area of the university through a range of different gift types.

The buildings themselves are leased and managed by Frank Krejci of Main Street Partners, LLC on a 99-year lease set to expire in 2059.

The NU Foundation wrote in an email to the Gateway that while the NU foundation does not own or manage the buildings on the property, the foundation is concerned about the condition of the vacant buildings and has been in regular contact with their owner.

“The maintenance, safety and security of the buildings is the legal responsibility of Main Street Partners who owns them and leases the ground from the foundation,” the email stated. “The foundation has closely monitored the city’s evaluations of the buildings and its mandates to the owner.”

As of posting this article, Krejci has not responded to the Gateway’s request for comment.

Despite redevelopment seeming far off, the property still brings in money for the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation program, according to the NU Foundation. This was the intention when the Lied Foundation donated the property in 2012.

A History of Homeless Activity

Tiffany and her 28-year-old boyfriend sat under the overhang of 7510 Dodge Street, careful not to enter the building, but attempting to seek shelter from the hot July sun.

“We’re not allowed in or out because the building is under surveillance and technically we’re not supposed to be on the property at all. At night, security rolls around,” Tiffany said. “They tell us we can’t be here, and we got to go.”

Being banned and barred from the building is something that led to a recent arrest of a 38-year-old man on June 6, 2018.

The man was arrested for allegedly trespassing after a Frontline Security officer reported him on the property. The report noted that the man had been banned and barred from the property on May 25, 2018. An Omaha Police report obtained by the Gateway stated that he was homeless. The Gateway has been unable to reach him for comment.

The couple and 38-year-old are three of many individuals who have stayed inside or next to the buildings. The vacant structures attract people seeking shelter, thieves looking for copper and a laundry list of liabilities including one in late March when a group of people, who according to Omaha police reports obtained by the Gateway, climbed on the roof of the building.

In a 911 call that took place July 11, 2017 the property manager of 7520 Dodge Street noted “several homeless people” living in the building.

“There’s two tenants at this shopping center, and they broke in on the other side,” said the property manager over a 911 emergency phone recording obtained by the Gateway. “It’s another — it’s also vacant. It’s like a Bag ‘N Save or something and then they got into Best Buy’s side, which is the part that I help manage. I think they’ve had a security guard working on it ‘cause there’s several homeless people living in it.”

The security company monitoring the properties at the time was Protective Security Advisors, LLC. Both the property manager and Protective Security Advisors, LLC declined the Gateway’s request for comment in regards to the building conditions or circumstances surrounding the properties.

Property Violation

As of July 11, 2017, 44 open violations were reported on the vacant building.

The state of the buildings has caught the attention of the City of Omaha. According to the minutes of a Property Maintenance Appeals Board meeting that took place Jan. 4, 2018, an appeal concerning a notice of property violation was discussed. A 6-month layover was considered and approved by the board under the condition that the building remain secure and the issue of an alleged homeless encampment be addressed.

During a Aug. 2, 2018 board meeting, Omaha Housing Inspector Steve Andersen said of the property: “Nothing with it has really changed from last I heard, it has been kept secure, clean. I did notice something in June and I called—the windows had been broken out and they were promptly boarded up. At this point, I’d recommend there to be a layover for another six months.”

The City of Omaha’s Property Maintenance Appeals Board approved another 6-month layover. 

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