Banner photo of the FJ Carey Block building on the corner of North 24th and Willis Avenue The red brick building has a red door and two locust trees growing in front

Shirley Tyree Theater Project

A new space for community gathering, fellowship, and storytelling is coming to North 24th Street

Project Outline Preservation of historic North Omaha building Expanded capacity for The Unions Performing Arts programing Creation of new community gathering space on North 24th Street

Plans are underway to preserve the historic F.J. Carey Block building at 2401 North 24th Street to be used as a community gathering space and theater.

Preservation of this historic brick structure will provide expanded opportunities for The Union’s Performing Arts program and breathe new life into a building which has served the North Omaha community for generations. Included in the building renovation plans are spaces for a 90-seat theater, lobby and ticketing area, set-design workshop, and an open-format rehearsal/gathering space.

Designs for the renovation of the building – currently being drafted by Omaha architecture firm Alley Poyner Macchietto – will carefully work to maintain the original character and facade of the historically-significant building which was built around 1914.


The Union's Performing Arts program has been producing live theatre in North Omaha since 2016. Following our move to the historic Blue Lion building (2423 North 24th St.) in 2017, the theatre program has been staging productions in a small, 50-seat capacity space within that building.

Denise Chapman, Producing Artistic Director of Theatre at The Union, notes: “The move to this new space will give us a chance to tell stories on a whole new scale and welcome even more people into space to experience and share these stories together.”

The programs mission is “dedicated to the development of professional theatre artists and thought-provoking productions that reflect authentic and diverse narratives about experiences within the African diaspora.”

To date, these narratives have included several powerful retellings of pivotal moments in North Omaha history. Two examples from the 2019 season include The Blues of Knowing Why which memorialized the traumatic police killing of Vivian Strong and its riotous aftermath in 1969, and Chapman’s own play, More than Neighbors which dramatized the immediate and lingering impact of Highway 75’s clear-cutting of North Omaha.

Blues of knowing 14

Blood at the Root Actor and actress sit back to back together center stage laughing with school books in their laps

Blood at the Root Actress looks out of frame wearing a worried look and holding a protest sign that reads Drop the Charges Against D


Blood at the Root Actor stands alone on stage wearing an angry expression with a clenched fist mid statement

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Blood at the root two actors sit on either side of the stage which is all dark except for a spotlight on each actor


Blues of knowing 1


Tell martha 7

Blood at the Root Actor stands alone in darkness looking defiantly out of frame Actress stands alone against a brick wall holding a rope taut between her hands


Blues of knowing 13

Tell martha 1

Blues of knowing 8

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Shirley Tyree: Our Inspiring Namesake

Ms. Shirley Tyree (1939 - 2021) contributed an inspiring life of service to our Omaha community. She was also talented singer, performer, and supporter of the performing arts. It is out great honor that the Shirley Tyree Theater bears her name. Follow the link to learn more about the inspiring life and legacy of this jewel of our community.

Learn More
Portrait photo of shirley tyree


The renovation of the F.J. Carey Block building will keep this rich history at heart. The building, which is now 108 years old and in need of significant repairs to prevent further deterioration, was recognized in 2016 by the National Park Service as one of 28 historically-significant buildings contributing to the North 24th and Lake Streets Historic District

For the first several decades of the building’s life it housed multiple laundry businesses including the original Carey Cleaners (the building’s front brick facade still bears the Carey name) and the long-running Standard Laundry Company. During the 1950s and 60s, multiple automotive body shops occupied the space. The most recent tenant of the building was the Simple Simon Day Care.

The initial stages of the building’s preservation will begin in late summer 2021. Of primary concern will be securing the building’s historic architecture and structural integrity from further decline. Meanwhile, The Union for Contemporary Art will work to secure funding for the full renovation, with the hopes of beginning construction in early 2022. Omaha construction firm Lund-Ross will take the lead in the project build out.

The photo below is The F.J. Carey Block building as seen in October of 1929. (From the KMTV/Bostwick-Frohardt Photograph Collection, permanently housed at The Durham Museum.)

FJ Carey Block Building as seen in 1920s with a brick 24th street in front

As part of its mission of supporting the creativity and livelihoods of local artists and theatre practitioners, The Union’s Performing Arts program has employed dozens of emerging local talents including actors and actresses, musicians, tradespeople, and more. In total, the economic impact of The Union’s work since moving to the Blue Lion building in 2017 has been significant. The Union has invested over $3.3 million in job creation and payments to artists.

The Union’s founder and Executive Director Brigitte McQueen notes: "The Union's mission is rooted in creating positive change for our community, and I believe that financial equity plays a key role in making that possible. The Union is honored to be able to provide this level of support to Black actors, playwrights, and crew members. Assisting with the economic redevelopment of North 24th Street is central to our work, and it is our hope that this theater will add to the vibrancy of our neighborhood and provide further support to small businesses along the corridor."

With the investment in the new building project, The Union anticipates financial support paid to theatre professionals and other partners to total $75-100 thousand annually in the first few years of operation.

  • Questions about the Shirley Tyree Theater project? We would love to hear them! Please reach out by phone at 402-933-3161 or by email at the link below.