Downtown Lincoln Has a Rejuvenated Look

by Judy Shutts


Downtown Lincoln is like a kaleidoscope whose picture changes with each turn of the tube.  For Downtown, the new picture includes newly resurfaced streets, parking garage spaces, retail shops, restaurants and office buildings. But the changes don’t stop there.

A new Civic Plaza and a new landscape design for P Street are in progress. The improvements and changes are planned to attract even more people to work, shop, play and live downtown.

Downtown Lincoln, in the heart of the city, extends west from the Haymarket, north to the UNL campus, and east to the Antelope Valley project. But the downtown is not in competition with the Haymarket. The downtown and Haymarket areas each have their niche, said Todd Odgen, marketing director for the Downtown Lincoln Association.

“We hope people will enjoy downtown as a whole,” he said.

Civic Plaza

A five-story, multicolored, lighted glass will be the centerpiece of the new Civic Plaza in downtown Lincoln. Complementing the towering art piece by Jun Kaneko will be a ceramic tile wall and triangular pipe structure that could serve as a stage or focal point for performances. With flexible seating arrangements, the plaza can host tailgate parties, concerts and outdoors movies and productions. 

The informal gathering space, located at 9th and P streets, will have casual seating and wireless Internet. About 400 people could gather for a concert and nearly 800 for tailgates.  A Bison Witches sidewalk café will occupy the southeast corner of the plaza. Another sidewalk café will be on the northeast corner. The area will be curb-less, so people can flow into the street during large functions. 

P Street Project

The streetscape from 11th Street to Centennial Mall along P Street is being redesigned with wider sidewalks and new landscaping. The pedestrian-friendly, bike-safe walking district is a year-long work in progress. The sidewalks will be upgraded with landscaping and public spaces, as well as bike racks and seating areas. The redesign calls for a bike lane that is separated from automobile traffic by an island.

New restaurants offer tasty options

There is something for everyone at the downtown restaurants. Relax at a Sushi bar, or indulge your longing for a Nebraska steak. From casual to refined, there are many savory choices. Some new restaurants can be added to the list of excellent eateries. Satisfy your craving for a burger at Dempsey’s Burger Pub, or enjoy tapas and a glass of wine at Sebastian’s Table.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub

Dempsey’s Burger Pub, at 228 N. 12th Street, prides itself on being a gourmet burger place with a relaxed atmosphere. There are no lines, benches or menus on the wall. The restaurant supports local farmers by using local ingredients when available. As its name implies, the restaurant serves up a variety of burgers, as well as sides and salads.

Sebastian’s Table

Sebastian’s Table offers a Mediterranean feel with its Spanish tapas and Spanish wine.

Tapas are small plates, both hot and cold, which are meant to be shared. The signature drink is Sangria, made by Taylor Kibbie, Sebastian’s general manager and mixologist.

The restaurant is especially appealing to foodies, people who enjoy delectable food and great wine. More than 50 percent of the cheese, meat and produce used at the restaurant is locally produced.  Fresh sandwiches are served at lunch for those who want good food, but can’t linger.

Kibbie said the restaurant caters to business people as well as guests who bring friends to drink wine and share tapas. Guests can spend a little or a lot. “It’s about Spanish tapas with an emphasis on sharing, the environment and the people you bring with you. You are in charge of your experience,” he said.

The improvements to P Street and the Civic Plaza will enhance the dining experience for diners who choose the outside seating. And, any change that brings people to the area is a good thing, Kibbie said. 

Sebastian’s table is a Ground Up Restaurant (GUP), owned and operated by Chef Erik Hustad and his cousin, Gabriel Lovelace. GUP has another restaurant, Abe’s Burgers and Freedom, and a bakery, Sasquatch!, both at 70th and Vine Streets.

Sebastian’s is at 126 No 14th St. in downtown Lincoln and is situated between the Zoo Bar and Gomez Art Supply.

New retail shops

Cuff is a new men’s clothing store that also carries men’s accessories and barware. The store features elevated casual clothing for men. Styles range from rugged to preppy. Cuff is located inside Embellish at 144 North 13th St.

Loft and Craft is a new furniture and accessories store in the Parrish Studios at 1416 O St., Suite 16.  The store features vintage furniture, refinished furniture and home décor.

Shoppers enjoy special events.

Shop the Blocks is downtown Lincoln’s premier shopping event that occurs twice a year. “Spring Into Fashion” happens each May and “Shop the Blocks Holiday Celebration” is in November. The event is a partnership between the Downtown Lincoln Association, downtown retailers and restaurants.

Shoppers can enjoy limousine service, late hours, discounts, prizes and appetizers while shopping in their favorite stores. Retailers who participate include Husker apparel stores, boutiques, jewelers, and bookstores, and specialty shops. 

Hundreds of people flock into downtown for a festive evening of shopping and an after party at a restaurant.

Shop the Blocks also sponsors 3rd Thursdays, which occurs once a month on the third Thursday. Several stores and boutiques offer late hours and special discounts. Another shopping event is Scarlet Days, a back-to-school shopping sale held the last week in August.

For a list of all the restaurants, museums, shops and events, visit The Downtown Lincoln Association at 206 S. 13th St., Suite 101, or call 402-434-6900.  Or, consult the website at

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