Category Archives: Building Omaha: Downtown Development Top 10

Part 10-Capitol District Ready to Launch

An artists rendering of the Capitol District, looking South

An artists rendering of the Capitol District, looking South

There have been many moments in Omaha’s history that have been described as turning points.  There was, Thomas Cuming’s decision as territorial Acting Governor of Nebraska to name Omaha the capitol of the territory, rather than Bellevue, Florence, or Nebraska City.  There was the ensuing decision by President Abraham Lincoln to have the Union Pacific Railroad cross the Missouri River from its Transfer Depot in Council Bluffs into Omaha, again, as opposed to other communities dotting the Mighty Mo.  These decisions, although remedial, were monumental in the creation of the City of Omaha.  Jump ahead 150 years, Omaha taxpayers usher in an entirely new era for the tired and underutilized riverfront by the passage of a bond issue to build the arena and convention center now know as the CenturyLink Center Omaha.  That decision almost single-handedly was responsible for a ripple effect of $2 billion plus in public and private investment the downtown and riverfront areas, making it the place that Omahans not only work, but live and play.  Ten years later, the stage has been set for a project that will take downtown Omaha to the next level.  Recently announced by Shamrock Development, the Capitol District, as it is being called, might very well be the next key turning point for downtown Omaha.

Bound by Capitol Street, Interstate 480, 10th Street, and 12th Street, the site of the Capitol District and its success is absolutely pivotal to the success of Downtown Omaha.  Currently a series of CenturyLink Center Parking Lots, the site is the main connector between the Old Market/Central Business District and the emerging North Downtown area.  Additionally, the site is one of the first thing drivers see (well right now, don’t see), when crossing the Interstate 480 bridge into the city.  Lastly, the site serves as a gateway into downtown for all travelers arriving via rental car or cab from nearby Eppley Airfield.  Needless to say, the future of this currently underutilized 6 block site is critical.

That’s where the vision of Shamrock Development comes in.  The proven downtown development group envisions a mixed use site that includes a 350 room Marriott Hotel, 140,000 Square Feet of Office, 100,000 Square Feet of Retail and Entertainment space, a public square, and over 200 apartment units.  To simplify it, the site will include a hotel larger than the new Hyatt Place in the Old Market, about as much office space as the new Gavilon Headquarters, more apartment units than the newly completed Highline Apartments and about 2/3 the retail space of Midtown Crossing.  To put it lightly, this project is several projects rolled into one.

With a price tag of over $200 Million, the project is slated to start construction on the new hotel in early 2014.  The entire project is expected to be completed by 2017.  Only time will tell what ramifications this project will have on its surrounding neighborhood.  Currently, many parking lots and underutilized properties surround the development site.  Hopefully, in several years, we will look back on the decisions made today by Shamrock and city leaders as a turning point that took Downtown Omaha into the future.  Only time will tell, but with the vision, team, and plan in place, this project is destined to become an immense success.

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Part 8-Omahans Find A New Home in Downtown Omaha

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A rendering of the 19th and Capitol apartments (Courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald)

Around 56,000 attended events in Downtown Omaha this weekend: two UNO hockey games, one Creighton basketball game, and one sold out rock concert.  All of these events took place at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.  With the Holland Performing Arts Center, Orpheum Theater, CenturyLink Center, and TD Ameritrade Park, downtown has evolved into the entertainment epicenter of Omaha.  Compare that overall event attendance figure to any market, whether it be Kansas City, St. Louis, Des Moines, Milwaukee, or heck, even Chicago.  We, as a city, have really found something here.  Downtown has become, for the lack of a better term, the place to be.

For decades, Omaha has been the business hub of Omaha.  Titans of industry such as Union Pacific, Woodman of the World, Con Agra Foods, and First National Bank, have called downtown their home for decades (some of them over a century).  Over a  years ago, it was really one of the only places where companies would consider when locating an office.  In the past 20 to 30 years, that wasn’t the case.  Suburban office parks began to offer ample parking, easy access to and from residential neighborhoods, and major shopping destinations just a short car ride away.  In 2010, Black Hills Energy announced its intentions to relocate 150 downtown employees to its new facility in the bustling bedroom community of Papillion.  The move, without question, made sense for Black Hills.  It brought them closer to their customer base and allowed them to become more effectively serve them.  But in their wake, they left behind an antiquated 96,000 square foot office structure at 19th and Capitol.

We’ve seen resurgence in downtown’s entertainment offerings: the Old Market, North Downtown, TD Ameritrade Park, the list is long.  Even with companies like Black Hills moving out of downtown we’ve seen growth in the Office Market.  But the major boom that is currently underway will shape downtown in larger ways than the physical office buildings or entertainment venues.  They are lampshades seen in windows as the sunsets over Downtown Omaha.  They are young professionals walking their dogs in the Gene Lahey Mall.  They are residents, who call Downtown Omaha their home.  The true sign of a strong urban core is its overall vibrancy.  Sure, larger cities have more tall office buildings, bigger stadiums, and fancy shopping destinations, but what Omaha is gaining right now will set it apart for decades to come.

NuStyle Development has been at the forefront of this emerging downtown mutlifamily market.  They have launched successful redevelopment efforts such as the Bank, a multifamily conversion of the former Farm Credit building at 19th and Douglas and the Tip Top Lofts in North Downtown.  Currently, they are the talk of downtown with their soon to be move in ready Highline project at 23rd and Dodge.  Soon though, they will add to their resume of success with their latest project at 19th and Capitol.

Last July, NuStyle announced their intentions to create 110 residences in the 7 story office building.  The project, which will cost an estimated $17 Million (per the Omaha World-Herald), will again, create a unique property for Omahans to call home.  Later this year, residents will be able to picnic on its rooftop deck overlooking the core of Downtown Omaha, read a book from the buildings newly installed exterior decks, or get in a good work out at the on site fitness center.

What is more important is that, once again, developers are finding a way to bring more people downtown.  Unlike the events that filled downtown’s calendar last weekend, these people live there.  As this and similar projects continue to be met with success, soon, demand for more retail will need to be filled.  Soon the young enterprenuer who lives at 19th and Capitol will no longer seek office space at 114th and Dodge streets, he or she will want to be downtown.  Large companies who want to attract and maintain young and bright minded talent will seek space office space in downtown.  It may seem over simplified, yes, but in order to build a truly vibrant neighborhood, people just need to live there.  Much like the speculative strip center or office building located among new suburban residential developments will be eventually filled, commercial property in downtown will have a similar fate.

For those who often wish Omaha’s downtown was more vibrant, had tall shiny buildings and big name retailers, don’t worry.  It’s coming.  We will get there.  A renaissance larger than what we’ve seen in the last decade is coming to Downtown Omaha.  In fact, it’s happening right now, one resident at a time.

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Part 7-Lerner Building Rising to New Heights

A rendering of The District and its 3 story addition to the Lerner Building.

A rendering of The District

Few properties have gone through as many redevelopment proposals as the Lerner Building has.  Since 1995 when the City of Omaha took ownership of the property, the building has been a target for redevelopment.  The only problem?  It took almost 15 years to find one that would stick.

Bought for the price of just $157,500 in May of 2012, the District, as the project is being called, will take the corner of 16th and Harney to new heights, literally.  With plans to create over 4,000 square feet of retail space and 36-38 multifamily apartment units, the 16,000 square foot structure will be expanded to accommodate these ideas.  Whats interesting though, is that the expansion isn’t horizontal, its vertical.  The development team, which is a partnership between Dicon Corp. and Seldin Company, intend to add 3 stories to the top of the existing two-story structure.

At a price tag close to $6 million, the project will serve as a starting off point for the revitalization of 16th Street.  Dormant for years, the once bustling heart of the city has been relegated into a gathering point for many of Omaha’s economically disenfranchised.  Popular for almost a century, 16th Street was once the place to be in downtown.  But in the wake of the post war 50s and the dawn of a new sprawling society, urban malls no longer had their place in Omaha.  Once Brandies closed in 1980, the wide pedestrian corridors that lined 16th Street became a hindrance to parking as opposed to a guide for pedestrian traffic.  One by one businesses closed and the street began to decline.

Soon though, 16th Street will carry with it a different legacy.  As the city continues to work on plans to create angled street parking, remove unsightly bus shelters, and reroute bus traffic away from 16th Street, more developers like Dicon and Seldin will be attracted to the area.  Although it may never again live up to the reputation of the retail heartbeat of the city, it is about to enter a new stage in its life, starting with The District.

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Part 6-Leavenworth Street Makes a Comeback

L 14 Flats, located on the corner of 14th and Leavenworth.  Image courtesy of http://www.facebook.com/pages/L14-Flats-Apartment-Homes

L 14 Flats, located on the corner of 14th and Leavenworth. Image courtesy of http://www.facebook.com/pages/L14-Flats-Apartment-Homes

Leavenworth Street had never been very sexy. The eclectic mix of aging warehouses, dormant thrift shops, vacant storefronts, and well, its prison, created an environment in which the name conjured up an image of a boundary line. It had seemingly, for many years, served as a border between a thriving urban core and a once bustling urban neighborhood. Little by little, though, this perception changed. Over the past decade, projects such as the Rows and Soma, the Drake Court, the Baker Supply Building, laid the foundation for Leavenworth Street’s new reputation: the a unique urban neighborhood minutes from the Old Market. Announced in the Summer of 2011 and recently completed, the L 14 Flats have become another welcome addition to the now trendy address in downtown Omaha.

The property, which contains 42 apartment units featuring various layouts, rests on the site of a former taxicab dispatch center. With features such as garage parking, an outdoor courtyard, and the obvious ability to live just a few steps away from the cultural center of the entire state of Nebraska, the building serves as yet another example of a successful urban living project in downtown Omaha.

More importantly, the project helped usher in a new vision for downtown. For too long, the focus of downtown living has been centered around the Old Market. This redevelopment into Market West, as the area is now know, shows that all parts of downtown (not just one or two) can create their own distinct culture and vibe. Additionally, America First Real Estate Group’s ability to lease out the property with relative ease shows that downtown market continues to absorb new multifamily construction and is likely capable of more investment.

Although no new projects have currently been announced along Leavenworth Street, one cannot help but imagine the endless possibilities that the street has to offer. The one time border between the thriving and the disenfranchised is now becoming an epicenter of downtown living.

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Part 5-NuStyle Development Asks Why.

The 16-Story 2223 Dodge Building now known as the Highline

The 16-Story 2223 Dodge Building now known as the Highline

It is about to usher in an entirely new era in downtown Omaha.  Although it has been a craze in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States, Omaha, for years, has lacked a true, urban, trendy, highrise apartment building.  Sure, there are buildings like the Opheum Tower, Riverfront Place, and others who boast the amenities of highrise living, but few will be able to match the dream that is about to become reality thanks to NuStyle Development Corp.

Acquired in July of 2012 by NuStyle for the price of $2.3 million, 2223 Dodge Street has been a long vacant eyesore in the heart of downtown Omaha.  Strategically located between booming Midtown and the bustling urban core of downtown Omaha, the building has sat dormant and unoccupied since 2002.

Ironically, the new towering testament to the strength of downtown, the building once served as the headquarters of American’s symbol of corporate greed and dishonesty.

Enron Corp, formed through Omaha based Northern Natural Gas’ acquisition of Huston Natural Gas, Interon, as it was initially named, called the building home for many years.  In hindsight, it may have been a sign of things to come. After promising to keep their corporate headquarters in Omaha, CEO Kenneth Lay moved the company, almost overnight, to the city of Houston.  In the years after their departure, the building changed hands multiple times.  Although it was updated many times throughout the 1990s, its last tenants vacated in 2002.  Omaha’s third largest structure (at the time) was now vacant.  In 2001, it appraised for a stunning $11.8 Million.

Despite its tumultuous past, NuStyle saw an opportunity for growth.  After realizing the success of their most recent project, the Bank, which converted the former Farm Credit Building at 19th and Douglas into apartments, it was clear that the site, located just blocks from the Joslyn Art Museum, Central High School and Creighton University, was ripe with potential.  Soon, the $30 million conversion project will boast 180 to 200 apartment units with amenities such as a rooftop patio, theater, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and breathtaking 360-degree views of downtown Omaha that will be a sight to behold.

Thanks to the investment by NuStyle, this once prominent address will become the Highline, one of the most sought after residential addresses in downtown Omaha.

For more information visit: http://www.thehighlineomaha.com/

Source: The Omaha World-Hearld

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