Jazz in June 2019 - Music Board

The Downtown Lincoln Association hopes a new music district in the heart of the city will attract musical artists and young professionals to flyover country.

The district will designate the area between 13th Street and Centennial Mall and Pinnacle Bank Arena and N Street as the hub for Lincoln’s music activity. 

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said the need for a music district was revealed in the most recent downtown Lincoln master plan, which takes a holistic look at the city and ways it can improve. The music district would formalize the already established downtown music scene.

“One of Lincoln's assets is a robust music scene,” she said. “The downtown master plan calls for the creation of sort of a music district that would amplify what is already there and perhaps guide others to the area.”

According to the plan, short-term developments over the next 18 months will include branding the district, streamlining the permit process for outdoor music events, improving outdoor event space and finding opportunities to host University of Nebraska-Lincoln music events in the district. 

The district would feature existing venues, like the Bourbon Theatre, Rococo Theatre and Duffy’s Tavern, and create a cohesive branding, according to DLA Deputy Director Todd Ogden. 

Long-term projects over the next five years include creating permanent outdoor performance sites and incorporating recording studios. 

Gaylor Baird supported the district during her campaign for mayor this year and was also involved in planning the district as a councilwoman. She said an advisory board will oversee the district’s creation and will first evaluate the strengths and needs of the current music scene.

The close proximity of UNL to the district would provide opportunities for student involvement, including student representation on the music board, partnerships with university curriculum and student-led events, Gaylor Baird said.

“Jazz in June is a great example of a kind of a collaboration between UNL and its campus and music and nonprofit arts festival folks in town,” she said. “Maybe we can do more things like that, that cater to different audiences and different types of music.”  

Gaylor Baird said cities such as Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas, and Fort Collins, Colorado, have seen an increase in attraction from young professionals and musicians after creating a music district. Lincoln’s district could help retain UNL graduates in the community and attract others, she said.

“If this is something that can make this a more attractive choice for young professionals and students coming out of [UNL] and other universities in town,” she said, “perhaps we can keep them here and put them to work and grow our city and our economy.”

The district will hopefully receive more involvement from the current Lincoln community as well, Ogden said.

“There's a lot of wonderful acts that I still feel like a large part of the city hasn't had the opportunity to hear and experience,” he said. “I think the more promotion that this area gets and the more development that comes along with it, it'll increase awareness and allow people to know what's going on to be able to attend some of the music district-type functions.”

Libby Seline contributed to the reporting of this story.