Amid the tile-lined streets on South 24th people are usually, on a day to day basis, busy with their unique storefronts and ready-to-order restaurants. The quick-paced tempo and vibrant Latino personality of the area has been recognized as one of the 15 Great Places of America for 2016 by the American Planning Association.
A small ceremony took place on October 3rd with the American Planning Association President, Carol Rhea, presenting an award to Omaha City Councilman Garry Gernandt and Mayor Jean Stothert right in La Plaza de La Raza.
Various business owners and community leaders were present at the ceremony. President of the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Yesenia Peck said, “Without the vibrancy of our business community on 24th Street no one would even consider our community for accolade. A national recognition tells our community that we are strong and capable business people, regardless of our nationalities or ethnicities.
Business people like Maria Johanna who owns Johanna’s Beauty Salon on South 24th and M Streets. “I am happy that people are starting to recognize how unique 24th street is, but as Hispanics we also have to help ourselves,” Johanna said. “We need our businesses to keep growing together as a community so that we can have a better economic outcome for all.”
Johanna came to the United States 20 years ago. Her dream was to always have and run a small business. “Twenty years ago, South 24th street had a much different look and almost was non-existent,” Johanna said.
A major push for revitalization for South 24th Street went under way about 15 years ago. Various federal grants and help from the South Omaha businesses worked together to revamp parking, along with adding tile-lined planters and trees for a themed streetscape. The project was completed about eight years ago.
“I want people to come down to 24th Street and for people to know that it is a little part of Mexico that is here in America,” Johanna said. “There are many things do; visit El Museo Latino, enjoy authentic cuisine and even get your hair done at a beauty salon!”
The American Planning Association votes every year on 15 places that define American greatness, places that, as the APA stated, “celebrate stories of exemplary planning that have resulted in stronger, healthier, and more just communities.”
Residents feel that same way. “24th Street is so unique that it gives you this exploratory vibe and feel when you walk down the street,” Perla Ochoa said, a South Omaha resident and shopper. “As an Omaha resident and community member I love coming down to 24th street, there’s nothing like it in Omaha. This recognition is amazing for our community.”
The APA recognized four other streets on the list of 15 Great Places in America. It is evident though that South 24th Street stands out.
“To the world this recognition tells that citizens of anywhere if they work together and build their communities to make them strong.” Yesenia Peck said. “They can be vibrant and prosperous as South Omaha. Together we are stronger.”[:]