Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely today announced that the old Riley School building on Dudley Street will be torn down to make way for at least five new affordable homes. The site is north of the current Riley Elementary School, 5021 Orchard Street.
"The current Riley school opened in 1964, and the old school property has been the subject of questions, controversy and worry by the neighborhood since then," Mayor Wesely said. "Thanks to the hard work of the city’s Problem Resolution Team, we’ve reached a solution that will benefit the entire neighborhood."
The Problem Resolution Team (PRT) brings together ten agencies to work on long-term problems with individual properties. The PRT was recently honored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors as a model community-based policing program. Lincoln’s PRT is one of three programs that will be featured in a report being prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice. Last year, the PRT won a "Best Practices" award from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.
The city departments on the PRT are Building and Safety, the City Council, Information Services, the Law Department, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, the Mayor’s Office, the Police Department and Urban Development. Other agencies on the PRT are the Lincoln Housing Authority and the Lincoln Lancaster District of the Nebraska Health and Human Services System.
Former proposals for the property included a possible group home facility, which was dropped due to neighborhood opposition. The former school was eventually sold to an individual who used it as a single-family home. The property was the site of numerous code violations over the years and the target of complaints about junk vehicles and junk piled outside the building.
The building was then purchased by Kenneth Yeats. He planned to renovate the building for his church, but zoning and code regulations did not allow for it. The situation then came to the attention of Nebraska Housing Resources (NHR), a local non-profit organization of homebuilders.
The city provided a grant to NHR to purchase the building from Yeats. That grant funding came from the Nebraska Housing Trust Fund through the city’s Urban Development Department. The old school will be torn down, and NHR will work with local homebuilders to construct five or six new affordable homes. NHR will also work with Neighborhoods, Inc. to get first-time home buyers into the new houses.
"It is a priority of the city that the new homes fit in with the character of the existing neighborhood," Wesely said. "NHR will work with Urban Development to make sure the new homes fit into their surroundings. NHR and Urban Development will also work with the neighborhood, including staff and families at the current Riley School, to keep them informed of the progress of the project." Neighbors can get on a contact list by calling the city’s Urban Development Department at 441-7606.
The purchase of the building is expected to be completed in the next week. NHR plans to move forward as soon as possible with demolition of the building and hopes to begin construction next spring.