Some eyebrows are raised around Lincoln this week, after some news coverage of a project in downtown Lincoln that is turning an old alley into a pedestrian walkway, in order to connect the Haymarket area on the north with the developing South Haymarket area on the other side of the Harris Overpass.
The new Lumberworks Garage on the southside of O Street is about to be joined by two large residential projects under development in the South Haymarket, with more undoubtedly to come. The alley in question is the route from one to another, and while it carries significant pedestrian traffic today from the parking garage to the Pinnacle Bank Arena and other Haymarket destinations, it will be a veritable thoroughfare in the future.
This north/south alley is a half-block west of 8th Street, from P to O Streets. When I was a brand-new-barely-21 rookie police officer in the fall of 1974, it was on Beat 1 of Lincoln's seven downtown foot patrol beats. I often was assigned to Beat 1 that fall and winter, trudging the area from the railroad tracks on the west, to 10th Street on the east, between O and R all night long.
And those nights were really long. Unlike beat 3, 4, 5, and 6, Beat 1 was as dead as a wedge at night. The workforce from the Russell Stover plant was long gone, and nothing much was left other than the occasional traveller making his way to the train depot, perhaps stopping for a cup of joe at the Russian Inn, and vagrants. Just thinking about it brings back memories of the smell of urine and Mad Dog 20/20.
I often rousted snoozing drunks out of the alley that is about to become a Haymarket jewell, which at the time was littered with broken bottles and mounds of pigeon droppings. It's hard to fathom the incredible transformation, not only of this alley, but of the entire Haymarket area. During my career, Beat 1 has gone from a dilapidated collection of warehouses where little human activity lingered after dark, to a shining star that is the favorite destination for Lincoln's residents and visitors, streets (and alleys) filled with the vibrant hum of urban life.