Lincoln's Haymarket: Then and Now

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The popularity of the Haymarket district is one reason city leaders chose the area for a new arena, but doing business there hasn't always been the popular choice.

In 1985 a group of property owners and community leaders came together with the goal of breathing life back into the vacant buildings along the streets of the Haymarket.

Today it's one of the most vibrant parts of Lincoln -- and the attraction is only expected to grow with the new arena.

Councilman Jon Camp's had a rare view of the transformation, as an owner of property in the area. He was part of Lincoln's hot spot long before it heated up. Now, the councilman who kept quiet during the Haymarket arena debate is sharing nearly three decades of insight.

Bustling with business; this is how you know Lincoln's Haymarket District.

It's come a long way from the silent, empty days Jon Camp remembers in 1982.

"It was pretty much vacant buildings and they were literally tumble weeds," Camp said, recalling the early days of redevelopment.

28 years ago the architecture of the Haymarket's buildings captured Camp, a sucker for anything with character.

He bought four fixer uppers, seeing potential in the purchase.

"I look at the old buildings and i can see a way to breathe life back into them and you can fix the buildings up but the true life is when we get people in them."

Reviving the Haymarket wouldn't be easy though. Instead of potential, businesses saw risk.

"In the early years there was a huge hesitation by established businesses to come here," said Camp.

Today, the hesitation has disappeared. Entrepreneurs are eager to snag their spot in the Haymarket.

"Well to me I think there's a real sense of community down here amongst the businesses owners and hopefully that will only get stronger," said Steve Blazek. He and his wife are among the newest additions to the district. They opened their wine shop, Bin 105, six weeks ago and are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

"My wife and I love to go down to Kansas City and walk around all the little shops down there and I'd love to see something like that happen in the Haymarket ..where you can just stroll around go into some unique shops and see some really fun things," said Blazek.

Camp says the entrepreneurial spirit brings a new flavor to the Haymarket, which is a personal sense of accomplishment for him.

But he's quick to point out, he's not out for personal gain when it comes to the Haymarket arena. In fact, he removed himself from city council votes leading up to the vote for the arena bond.

"During the campaign I was basically absent from everything because I didn't want the opponents or proponents to say that with my interests in the Haymarket that one way or another I was trying to influence it," said Camp.

He's seen the past blossom into the present, now he's hoping the addition of the arena will help the whole city bloom, just as he's seen happen in the Haymarket.

"From this day forward, whatever happens with the arena is going to benefit the city as equally it would benefit me. It's not a Jon Camp project; it's for the city."

To learn more about Bin 105, click on the link below.