Have you been downtown lately? The old brick building that once housed Chipotle, Cold Stone Creamery, Valentino’s and Quizno’s has been demolished, as construction continues on a $27 million redevelopment project called Urban 38. The city is building a parking garage on the bottom and developers WRK of Lincoln and Woodbury Corp. of Utah are building condos above. Retail is supposed to return to the ground floor eventually.
Meanwhile, Chipotle has reopened in a new location two doors north of Noodles, on 14th Street.
I thought Beutler clearly won the debate. A few nuggets of interest:
• Beutler said “arguably the most important issue” in Lincoln right now is street needs. This surprised me, since during his four years he has not really offered a solution. He did kick in some city dollars to complement federal stimulus dollars for roads. But he has not acted since getting authority from the Legislature to implement urban growth districts on the city edge — where projected sales tax revenue would be used to obtain bonds to fund infrastructure, similar to tax increment financing districts. He did say he’s working on a financing plan that will likely include a series of small bond issues. That’s news.
• Beutler seemed to get rattled when Buffington criticized his $2 million creation of a Development Services Center in city hall and $6 million purchase of the Experian building. Beutler said all the money spent on leases for city offices will be enough to make payments on the Experian building — although he didn’t mention the estimated $10 million cost of moving, for which the city doesn’t have a plan. “It was a steal,” he said of the Experian building. “The only problem is filling it.”
• Beutler said of the arena project: “It’s happening with the utmost transparency.” That was an overstatement, given the recent approval of a pre-construction contract that won’t allow the actual bids to be made public, only scorecards of each company that bids.
• I was surprised Beutler got so irritated when Buffington suggested the city might not want to take state or federal funds — with all their strings attached — to build the south or east beltways and instead should look for efficiencies in city government to do the projects. “My opponent is not in the realm of the real,” he said. He’s right, the city could never pay for those projects itself, but no need to attack her for making a rookie mistake. She shot back that perhaps the city could have built the south beltway instead of the arena project.
• Beutler seemed to try to take credit for building momentum to reform the Commission of Industrial Relations (which settles wage disputes between cities and unions and enforces the law requiring public employees’ to keep up with their peers’ in other cities) when he said, “we have built up an armada of opposition.” I don’t think he can take credit for that — while he has complained about the CIR since taking office, Republicans on the City Council and up in Omaha have made a lot more noise than he. Nevertheless, he also predicted, “You will see change this year.”
• Most unexpected question asked by a panel of local journalists: How big a problem is illegal immigration in Lincoln? Beutler said it’s not a problem here.
• Beutler claimed crime has dropped 21 percent since he took office — which I’ve never heard before.
Click here to see some video from the debate.