Jul 15, 2016 10:18AM
By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
Caroline McBride sobbed as she left midtown Omaha with her partner, M.J., and the last load of their belongings from their midtown home. She was so happy there.
The tears quickly subsided as they arrived at their new home.
“It’s pretty easy when you are greeted with strangers bearing champagne,” M.J. says.
The couple now live in The Rows at SoMa, a group of rowhouses along Leavenworth between 11th and 13th streets. Bluestone Development approached them about moving.
Bluestone owner Christian Christiansen was looking for buyers of his new development off the Old Market, and a mutual friend suggested he contact the ladies.
“When we bought down here, it was dirt and not much else. We really had to trust and go on a wing and a prayer,” M.J. says. “Everything they promised has come true.”
Christiansen promised great people (in the neighborhood) and quality workmanship (in the building). The couple appreciate the diversity of The Rows’ residents. Their neighbors range from millennials to folks in their 60s, from single people to married couples.
Caroline and M.J. welcome all the new friends. Caroline has even joined the board of the homeowner association, which hosts wine nights on Wednesdays.
“They’re great,” Jerre Tritsch, current HOA president and a retired lawyer, says of the couple. “They’re fun people. Very positive. We love having them here.”
“There’s always an eclectic group of people and dogs,” Caroline says.
Walking around the neighborhood, Caroline greets everyone by name, and they smile and say hello back. In fact, the only complaints that the couple receive follow M.J. starting her Harley-Davidson motorcycle before 7 a.m.
The wine nights take place in the community garden, which features two crescent-moon shaped benches on a paver patio. The garden includes 14 planting beds, available by a lottery system. The landscaping and gardens are all organic.
It’s also beautiful, in part, thanks to Keep SoMa Beautiful, a group started by the community that walks through the streets to make sure the sidewalks are intact and mess-free.
“Overall we’re looking to encourage an attitude of participation in the community,” says Tritsch. “Don’t wait for a contractor or management company to do something. Pitch in and help, because that helps to build relationships within the community.”
The first row house the couple lived in was a two-bed, 2-1/2-bath townhouse in the middle of the development. The 2,200-square-foot home looked out over the community garden. Sitting on one of the benches in the garden, a visitor would hardly know the heart of the Old Market lies a quick stroll down the street.
“There’s a sense of openness by the total privacy that’s built in,” Caroline says.
The couple specifically wanted to live in one of the homes facing Leavenworth Street and the Old Market.
In 2009, they acquired one of The Rows’ eight 2,500-square-foot homes with three beds and 3 1/2 baths. They liked the floor plan, which is longer and includes more windows.
“One of the first questions people ask is about windows,” M.J. says. “Are you covering them? Are you leaving them uncovered? What about the kitchen?”
The creative couple, who established and operate Rebel Interactive agency, found an appropriately creative solution—sheer panels with black squiggly details running down them. The contemporary design fits well with their home, which includes brightly colored artwork and furniture throughout.
The couple appreciate that art is a part of SoMa. The garden features a sculpture commissioned by Bluestone for the area. The community also features an art gallery that doubles as a commons room and is available to residents at SoMa. Caroline and M.J., who have been together since 1997, used the gallery to celebrate with their friends and neighbors following their marriage in Iowa in September of 2013.
This urban-living development embraces people (and pets) of all types. Amenities such as snow removal and lawn care help residents leave home with peace of mind.
“A lot of people are attracted to SoMa because they travel quite a bit,” says Tritsch.
The McBrides count themselves among those travelers. They spend many weekends at Lake Okoboji with their black cat, Reo, and Boston terrier, Bella. They also travel to Key West, Florida, once a year to stay at their time share, and to Arizona to visit M.J.’s mom.
Their travels always end back at their row home in Omaha.
“We love being close to Bemis and KANEKO,” Caroline says. “It’s nice being right across the street from world-class creativity.”
M.J. smiles brightly as she thinks about her downtown life.
“I’ve enjoyed living other places, but I love living here,” M.J. says. Encounter
Visit omahadowntown.org for more information.