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Hurry Up, Virginia!
Saddle Creek's Slowdown project can't came fast enough

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: June 29, 2005

Slowdown, Saddle Creek Record's proposed bar/office/concert facility, took one step closer to reality last Thursday when the project was officially announced at a joint press conference between label executives and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.

It seems like only yesterday (even though it was last October) that Saddle Creek Records operators Jason Kulbel and Robb Nansel were being chased out of a Metcalf Park neighborhood association meeting by an angry mob dead-set on preventing Slowdown from being developed at 1528 N. Saddle Creek Rd. A month later and the project seemed dead. But just when all hope seemed lost, the City in the form of former Planning Director Bob Peters and planning department official Ken Johnson helped the label find a new home, in an area that's awkwardly being been nicknamed "NoDo" -- as in Omaha's North Downtown redevelopment district.

The actual location is a piece of property bounded by 13th and 14th Sts., and Webster and Cuming Sts. The Slowdown project will include:

  • A 400-capacity, 2,000+ sq. ft. music hall / club with state-of-the-art sound system,
  • A 2,230 sq. ft. bar adjacent to the concert space, and
  • Warehouse, offices and meeting facilities for the record label.




But that's not all. The overall project includes a two-screen independent movie theater called Filmstreams run by entrepreneur and NYU grad Rachel Jacobson, seven retail spaces (managed by Saddle Creek), and a 32-unit condominium complex developed and managed by Bluestone.

Kulbel said Saddle Creek purchased the 35,000 sq. ft. property at $7 per sq. ft. -- a price that City Spokesman Joe Gudenrath said was established by a real estate appraisal. Financial incentives are being offered in Tax Increment Financing -- or TIF. Kulbel said TIF is a form of tax relief where any money used toward the purchase and public-benefit improvements can be offset in futures taxes. "Projects like Destination Midtown and the Tip-Top/InPlay project wouldn't have happened without TIF," Kulbel said. "It's not a huge amount of money, but it can be a deal-breaker without it."

Kulbel said the Slowdown facility -- which will employ between 20 and 25 part-time workers -- isn't much different than what was proposed at the Metcalf Park location. Plans call for the lounge to be open daily regardless of scheduled shows in the "big room."

Local concert promoter One Percent Productions will be involved in booking bands at the club. "They'll continue to have the same role that they have now around town," Kulbel said. "It would be crazy for us to shut them out, if only for simplicity's sake. They've got great contacts."

He said the club will "be a showcase for music that we like and the people we like," including both national touring and local acts. That would indicate that Slowdown will be in direct competition with Sokol Underground, a popular 320-capacity venue in South Omaha also booked by One Percent. Kulbel said there's plenty of room for both venues to thrive.

"There's room for ten 400-capacity clubs in this town," he said. "If anything, we could use a couple more. Ideally, we want to get to the point where we can book exactly the shows we want and have room for clubs to book other shows."







Click thumbnails for larger images (PDFs).


"Ideally, we want to get to the point where we can book exactly the shows we want and have room for clubs to book other shows."





"If we get everything enclosed by winter, we could be moving our offices in the spring and open shortly afterward."



Though a (non-corporate) pizza vendor has been selected for the restaurant, no other business has committed to moving into the proposed retail spaces yet, Kulbel said. "I would like to see something like a clothing store in one or two, maybe a coffee shop. If record stores weren't such a thing of the past, I'd like to see one of those, but downtown already is covered with them."

So when will Slowdown open? Kulbel couldn't say for sure. "It's so open-ended," he said. "If we get everything enclosed by winter, we could be moving our offices in the spring and open shortly afterward. But if we don't get it enclosed, it could be over a year from now."

Dealing with city politics has slowed progress, he said. Though the land has been surveyed, soil tests have only just been ordered, and it could take more than 60 days before results are in hand. Those results could mean the difference between immediately driving footings and any necessary remediation by the city.

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Published in The Omaha Reader June 29, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.