NoDo Revival: 16th and Cuming

Today was my lucky day. An amazing new mural had appeared seemingly out of nowhere here in North Downtown Omaha just days ago, and I wanted to capture some photos. I wasn’t the only one – cars slowed down as they passed and two young men were ankle-deep in the dust of the (newly) vacant lot west of the mural taking selfies. The lucky part is that the mural’s artist, Justin Queal, was – in spite of the 80+ degree heat – there working on his piece today as I went for a walk during my lunch hour.

Justin Queal North Omaha Mural

Artist Justin Queal and his work in progress

It seems no coincidence that the mural that appeared just at the start of the 2015 College World Series takes that storied sports institution as its subject matter. And this artist gets Omaha –  Queal is now based in Phoenix but is originally from the city that has long hosted the series. He said he wanted it to be a “timeless design” and choose the bold font for the “Omaha” lettering so it would look like the lettering that might be on an old factory – like many of the buildings in North Downtown.

Noted Omaha architect J.F. Bloom built the structure, which would become Queal’s canvas, in the early 1900’s. Bloom designed other iconic Omaha structures around that time as well, including what is now Central High School, according to Queal. Lucky for those of us who spend time in NoDo, a visionary developer recently bough this property at 16th and Cuming and wanted to do something special with it. Queal is definitely doing just that, and I am excited to see what’s next for this space and what it will do for the neighborhood’s revitalization.

View of JF Bloom Building from South side of Cuming StreetOnly months ago, there was a particularly drab vacant structure to the west of this Bloom building. As a stand-alone structure, it looks more like the work of a noted architect than weeks ago when it looked like one in a row of many forgotten warehouses and auto repair shops. Panel of mural in progress by artist Justin Queal

The #RoadtoOmaha has a new welcome sign, and the revival of this area is in full swing, with the character of its industrial history intact.

Thanks to Justin Queal for talking the time to talk with me about his work.

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