OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Planners are taking extra steps to find out what community residents want to happen as the city revitalizes what's been called the historic heart of north Omaha.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that city planners and several residents of the neighborhoods along North 24th Street think the area could be revived to overcome its troubles, which include dilapidated housing, a shortage of local jobs, drug-related crime and gang activity. The planners want to know what neighborhood residents think is needed.

The study underway is called Forever North. It's focused on housing and transportation, including buses, bikes and cars.

A planner holds open-door office hours three afternoons a week in North 24th Street cultural centers. Other planners lead twice-weekly "place assessment workshops" at which attendees share their observations about several locales and what could be improved or replaced at each. Community design workshops are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I can see the city of Omaha is going out and really engaging the community, and now the community has a responsibility" to share opinions and insights, said LaVonya Goodwin, a businesswoman and nonprofit leader who's on a community stakeholder committee of Forever North. "We're trying to use every method we can to connect to the people who this will affect the most."

Forever North is building on previous efforts, such as the North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan, said planner Manuel Cook. The revitalization plan identified the potential for North 24th Street to become an arts and entertainment district.

There have been positive developments along North 24th Street: the $2.4 million Fair Deal Village Marketplace, the establishment of a gallery and studios by the Union for Contemporary Art and the construction of Heart Ministry Center. Several businesses have opened, including restaurants and a coffee shop.

"There's tangible proof of positive change and investment," Goodwin said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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