American National Bank should be allowed to build a permanent bank branch on Saddle Creek Road, across the road from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Omaha Planning Board decided Wednesday.
In doing so, the board ruled that American National shouldn't have to defer its desires while waiting for UNMC officials to define their dreams for the neighborhood around UNMC's new $370 million cancer center.
If the Omaha City Council follows the Planning Board's recommendation and approves the plan in January, American National could begin moving dirt in May for its new project.
That would be 18 years after the bank deposited a portable building on the site.
Ken Hansen, UNMC's assistant vice chancellor for facilities management and planning, told the Planning Board on Wednesday that the university wants to have American National as a neighbor. But he said the branch, as planned, would be in the way of future redevelopment west of the new cancer center.
However, Hansen and UNMC consultants said they won't have a detailed plan for the neighborhood ready until late February or March.
American National has used the portable building as a temporary branch at 520 S. Saddle Creek Road, although bank officials have long wanted to erect a permanent building there. Since 2007, the main stumbling block involved land that the city wanted for a future extension of Emile Street.
American National doesn't own part of that land. A neighboring credit union does and isn't willing to give it up.
On Wednesday, American National and city officials said they had resolved the street issue. The bank would expand a current access route to Saddle Creek Road for use as a temporary driveway until Emile Street is extended at some unknown future time.
With that, Omaha Planning Department officials said, American National Bank had satisfied the city's needs and should be able to move ahead despite UNMC's concerns.
Dave Fanslau, the city's acting assistant director for urban planning, said the cancer center will be wonderful for the city and neighborhood.
“In an ideal world, there would be a plan in place, and everybody would know what that plan is and could plan accordingly,” Fanslau said. “But nobody knows what that (plan) is.”
UNMC officials and consultants didn't exactly oppose the bank's plan.
But Hansen said the new bank branch would be in the way if a nearby section of Saddle Creek Road were shifted to the west, making way for a grassy swale to control flooding.
Tate Fitzgerald, American National's chief administrative officer, said the bank is giving up 60 feet of its property along Saddle Creek for a potential shift.
The board voted 5-1 to approve rezoning and a preliminary plat for the site. Chairman R.J. Neary voted no.
Also Wednesday, the Planning Board:
» Voted to recommend approval of plans for a 10- to 25-story office, retail and residential tower at 1416 Dodge St., the former Union Pacific headquarters building site, with up to $17 million in tax-increment financing.
» Voted to recommend approval of plans for a five-story apartment and office building, Nichol Flats, at 16th and Nicholas Streets, with $1.7 million in tax-increment financing.