OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — People from all over Omaha flocked to 30th and Parker Streets on Aug. 25 to wander around sleek new apartments and town houses, lounge on a sprawling green space, walk through an event venue and sip drinks in a trendy new coffee shop.

They were experiencing the transformation of 23 acres that once were home to Pleasantview Homes, a low-income housing project that was at times plagued by violence.

Pleasantview was torn down in 2009, and in its place today is the Highlander neighborhood, a mixed-income housing development. The project celebrated its grand opening Saturday.

"People said this'll never happen in north Omaha," said Maria Walinksi-Peterson, who teaches at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and attended Saturday's open house. "Well, here it is. And it's only going to get better."

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the project has been seven years in the making. While the first phase is complete, construction on various components of the project will likely continue for the next decade, said Alexis Bromley, the director of strategic partnerships at 75 North, the group leading the effort.

Among other features, the Highlander neighborhood has a community garden and a community building boasting educational and wellness resources, Hardy Coffee Co. and restaurant space. On deck for the future is a senior living center, gym, grocery store and early childhood development center.

Organizers hope that the neighborhood will attract both public and private investment to an area that has declined in recent years.

The undertaking is already bringing amenities to north Omaha that residents have historically had to travel elsewhere in the city to find, said Pamela Jo Berry, who lives in the area. Berry said she hopes that the project also helps the broader community recognize the merits of her neighborhood.

"Those of us who live here know that north Omaha is a good and beautiful place," Berry said.

75 North Executive Director Othello Meadows said that's exactly what he hopes the project reminds people: Long before the Pleasantview housing project was built here, this neighborhood had a rich and diverse history. With the Highlander neighborhood, he wants to celebrate the history and diversity that make this area special.

"I'm excited about helping people remember," he said.

The project is one of 17 Purpose Built Communities, a national network backed by Warren Buffett and a handful of other wealthy philanthropists. The Purpose Built model uses a redevelopment strategy that focuses on quality housing, education and health and wellness services.

So far, the neighborhood's residential space has been popular. About 300 residents live there today — every single unit is full.

"I think this is amazing," said Jessie Bass, another north Omaha resident who attended the open house. Bass said she has family members who already live in the neighborhood, and she plans to apply to live there, too. "We need this in our community."


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,