Living Downtown

by Patty Beutler • photo by Tom Tidball

Paula Harre and Dan Duncan didn’t know what they were missing.

The retired orthodontist and the executive director of the Nebraska Innovation Development Corporation lived far south in Lincoln and rarely came downtown.

And then they moved—less than a year ago—into the Lied Place, the tall sliver of a building located on Q Street where Applebee’s once sat at street level. The center of the city lies below their perch on the 16th and 17th floors of the new complex that contains some 37 condos.

They couldn’t be more delighted.

With windows on the west, south and north, they have perfect viewing of the north stadium seats, the scoreboard and Memorial Stadium’s big screen when they are not attending football games. Sometimes they can hear the band practicing, especially the drum corps.

Although they have no deck or outside space for the first time, they are taking advantage of all the city has to offer—multiple food choices, movie theaters, art galleries, outdoor concerts and the grounds of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, all within a few blocks.

The skyline is changing in downtown Lincoln, and more and more people are moving in to take advantage of all the center of town has to offer.

The number of downtown residents has grown from 3,000 in 2010 to over 10,000 once the new residential developments are completed in the next few years, said Todd Ogden, president and CEO of the Downtown Lincoln Association.

Although there has been a boom in private student housing since the University of Nebraska joined the Big Ten, there are several projects for young professionals in the works, and Lincoln can handle the additional occupancy without a problem, he said.

“We’re hoping to get some more affordable housing popping up as well with some federal grants,” he added.

No need for four-wheel transportation; the core center offers everything from restaurants and bars—Ogden puts the number at around 120 offerings—to movies, entertainment, exercise opportunities, shopping, a pharmacy and even a grocery store walking distance away. Content residents will find all the necessities and more at their fingertips and footsteps.

Ogden describes a downtown master plan that creates a center that is a good middle ground between a big city and a small town, where people can settle in and still have that small-town feel, where everyone knows everyone. And all the services from entertainment to retail are nearby.

“We’re transitioning from an 8-to-5 business center to a 24/7 urban neighborhood,” he said. “Lincoln is a kind of center of opportunity.”

The Canopy Street Market at 140 Canopy Street is a welcome addition for downtown residents. The full-service grocery is open every day from early morning till 10 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. on Sundays. Hungry shoppers can find breakfast, lunch and dinner specials in the deli, while grab-and-go snacks tempt anyone walking the aisles. Don’t be surprised to find local favorites from Le Quartier bakery and spaghetti sauce from Valentino’s among the offerings that include dairy, meat, produce, bakery and frozen items. Oh, and liquor and beer are also available, which makes for one-stop shopping. 

The downtown offerings, in addition to food stuffs, are plentiful. Just
ask Harre.

“I started the summer putting in my calendar all of the concerts and events that are available, and it’s like every day there was at least one if not two,” she said.

Farmers markets, including Saturdays in the Haymarket from May till October, Jazz in June on Tuesdays on the Sheldon Museum of Art grounds, Lincoln Foundation free noon concerts on Wednesdays throughout the summer, weekly concerts at the nearby Telegraph Mill all keep her calendar full.

“It’s just easy to get to all those places,” she said, pleased at all the activity downtown. 

As a newbie, she understands that the numbers of people may not be up to pre-Covid standards, but it doesn’t disappoint. “It seems like it’s thriving and, you know, really alive.”

One thing is certain. “We’ve gone to more movies since we moved downtown than we did even before Covid, because the movie theater is just a block away, so it’s just really been fun to take advantage of things that we just didn’t bother to do before,” Harre said.

She did note one disadvantage. As a volunteer housing dogs for Domesti-PUPS, Harre misses opening the door and letting the dogs outside to do their business; instead, she has to ride the elevator down and walk to a grassy area.

But that minor bother is overshadowed by the pluses. Like the night the couple walked over to the Lied Center for Performing Arts to get last-minute, front-row tickets to The Righteous Brothers, went home to change clothes and headed to Zoofest at the Zoo Bar, all in the same night. 

And, no, contrary to widespread rumor, the building does not feel shaky when the wind blows, although watching storms move in from high up offers plenty of entertainment, Harre said.  

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