Tag Archives: Real Estate Development

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 4-Reviving Kimball’s Legacy at 15th and Dodge

An architect’s rendering of the redeveloped Old Federal Building (courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald and Alley Poyner Macchietto)

It was 1878 when a young Thomas Kimball and his family moved to the banks of the muddy Missouri River to the bustling railroad town of Omaha, Nebraska.  At the time, his current neighbors likely could not fathom the role that the young 16-year-old Kimball would have in shaping the architectural landscape of Omaha.  The future graduate of MIT aided in the creation of local icons such as the Hotel Fontenelle, the Medical Arts Building, Omaha Public Library, Burlington Station, St. Cecilia Cathedral, and campus of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition.  In all, he was responsible for the design of over 25 buildings across town, few of which are still in existence today.  Built in 1933, the Old Federal Building on 15th and Dodge Streets remains one of the few existing Omaha landmarks designed by Kimball.

Constructed as a part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the 12 story 105,000 square foot building was home to several federal agencies, including, the US Weather Bureau, the Internal Revenue Services, US Department of Agriculture, and most recently the Army Corps of Engineers.  For the past few years though, the once bustling legacy of Kimball has been relegated the status of just another vacant building in Downtown Omaha.

In December of 2011 that changed when First OFB, a joint venture between Iowa based Nelson Development and Rosemont, Illinois’ First Hospitality Group acquired the property for $2.375 million.  The group intends to bring the property to new life with a 152 room Residence Inn by Marriott.

The approximately $23 million redevelopment will create an estimated 50 full-time and 25 part-time hospitality jobs and is slated to open in the Spring of 2013.  The hotel will feature amenities such as Wi-Fi, a fitness center, meeting space, and will serve as a great compliment to the sculpture park located just west of the property.

The project will help meet the demands of the currently undeserved Downtown Omaha hotel market.  With just under 2,400 rooms currently, the 152 rooms created by this project is among the over 600 units either planned or under construction in downtown.  Worth noting, the building is located in an area not widely utilized by tourists.  Most other projects are taking place in either the Old Market or North Downtown neighborhoods.  This project speaks volumes of the level of confidence out-of-town developers and investors are seeing in Downtown’s core.  Additionally, the hotel will greatly serve neighboring corporate giants including First National Bank, Union Pacific, and Woodman of the World.

Currently under construction, it will be exciting to see another great piece of Omaha’s history saved.  With the proud legacy of one of Omaha’s great architects at stake, the hotel project will be a wonderful reminder of the many contributions made by Thomas Kimball to the Omaha landscape.

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Part 3-New Life for the Historic Barker Building

A post card circa 1929 of this Historic Barker Building at 15th and Farnam

It’s been almost 15 years since the Barker Building was boarded up.  This Neo-Gothic Revival beauty, built by Omaha construction tycoon Peter Kiewit and Sons in 1929, the Barker Building is an important piece of Omaha’s architectural history.  Since 2008, this property located at 15th and Farnam has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Yet for so many years, this iconic gem has been relegated to a simple eyesore.  Thanks to the unprecedented momentum currently shaping the downtown landscape and, of course, a partnership between Omaha based Shamrock Development and Dicon Construction, that is starting to change.

This May, the development team announced their intentions to renovate this piece of history into a vibrant mix of 48 luxury apartments and over 6,000 square feet of street level retail.  With apartment rents ranging from $900 to $1,200 per month, this once dormant property will be given a breath of fresh air.  Pickleman’s Gormet Cafe has already announced plans to open a sandwich shop at street level.  With an estimated project price tag of roughly $9 million, this redevelopment will mark a continuation efforts by developers and city leaders to bring new life to Omaha’s historic addresses.

For the past several years, this activity has seemed to be centered around the Old Market and North Downtown neighborhoods.  This project will help “bridge the gap” between Downtown Omaha’s thriving entertainment and nightlife and the corporate core of downtown, currently centered around 16th and Douglas.

Most significantly worth noting is that this project will meet the demand of a market segment mostly overlooked by the downtown construction boom of the early 2000′s: market rate luxury apartments.  Past projects of note, such as the Paxton, the Ford Warehouse, and Beebe and Runyan Lofts, tended to focus on the luxury condominium market.  This project shows confidence in the downtown rental apartment market and which appears to be gaining momentum across downtown.  This redevelopment is one of several currently planned and announced apartment projects in downtown.

With construction underway, it will be interesting to see how this project will shape the immediately surrounding blocks.  Several underutilized properties surround the building to the West.  In particular, they tend to concentrate around the 16th Street and Farman intersection.  With new residents and retail establishments set to move in to the Barker, it will be exciting to watch the surrounding blocks feed off of its rebirth.  Upon completion, the Barker Building will again become an important piece of Omaha’s downtown landscape, and will once again be a hub of activity for years to come.

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Part 2-Hyatt Finds a New Place in the Old Market

A rening of the Hyatt Place Hotel, currently under construction.

A rending of the Hyatt Place Hotel, currently under construction.

It’s not often that one comes across a market segment in commercial real estate where growth of almost 100% over a 5 or 6 year period is considered sustainable.    In downtown Omaha, the hotel population is expected to do just that.  In 2007, towards the end of Omaha’s first “downtown boom,” the city had a capacity of just over 1,700 rooms; currently, it’s at 2,400.  Within the next two to three years, that figure could be well over 3,000 with the amount of projects that are currently proposed, being planned, or under construction.  A big piece of that new growth is coming from the new Hyatt Place Hotel being built in the heart of Omaha’s Old Market District at 12th and Jackson Streets.

Upon its expected opening in 2014, the 9 story 159 room Hyatt Place will be the first hotel of any kind for the Hyatt brand in Nebraska.  It will also provide a breath of fresh air to a long vacant eyesore in the Old Market.  For almost a decade, the property has been a giant hole in the ground, literally.  Both a condominium developer and a hotel developer tried to revive the property, but were met with defeat.  The project will surely cure a longtime headache for neighboring Old Market businesses and bring a wealth of activity to the area.

To some, this projects importance stems from its ability to meet the demand for hotel rooms to the Old Market area.  Currently, the only hotel operating in what would be considered the Old Market District is the 249 room Embassy Suites at 10th and Howard Streets.  Given the publicity received by the area in many national and local media outlets over the last couple of years, the Old Market is rapidly developing as both a regional tourist destination and Omaha’s cultural center.

But more significantly, this project is another extension of the idea that downtown Omaha is quickly becoming a destination in and of itself.  With TD Ameritrade Park and the College World Series, the CenturyLink Center and events like March Madness and the Olympic Swim Trials, downtown Omaha is quickly becoming the place to be for entertainment and nightlife.  Not to mention the fact that it is conveniently located within a close proximity to Eppley Airfield, Interstates 480, 80, and 29 and other Omaha attractions such as the Henry Doorly Zoo.  Hotels, like other industries, are attempting to position themselves to capture that.  This project is no different.

The steel has already begun rising.  The foundations have been poured and the structure appears to be rising above the first level.  It should be a fun project to watch!

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Part 1-Downtown Omaha Boom: Gavilon Makes it’s Mark

Rendering courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald (Sept. 5, 2012)

Over the past several years, most new developments in Downtown Omaha have seemed like more of the same: a historic rehab, a new apartment building, a new hotel, or a new restaurant.  That all changed a few weeks ago when Gavilon, an Omaha based commodities trading firm, announced publically its intentions to move into a new, state of the art office building and trading floor on the site of the former Omaha World-Herald building at 14thand Dodge Streets.

Opus Group, a Twin Cities based real estate company, has been hired as the developer for this build-to-suit project.  Official terms of the deal have not been disclosed.  Regardless, the $44 million, 5 story, 131,225 square-foot office building marks the first significant new office development in downtown Omaha since Union Pacific Center opened in 2004.

First and foremost, this deal is as exciting for the city of Omaha as it is for Downtown Omaha.  Recently acquired by Japan based Marubeni Corp., Gavilon will be cementing its home in the heart of Omaha for years to come.  Additionally, it shows both the health and strength of a company with Omaha roots and serves as yet another Omaha business success story.

For Downtown Omaha, this means several things.  It was able to out compete suburbia.  Gavilon could have gone the route of CSG International, TD Ameritrade, or Blue Cross Blue Shield and build out West.  But they decided to expand and maintain their presence in Downtown Omaha.  This deal will also help bring vibrancy to a long vacant corner of downtown Omaha.  Torn down in 2008, the site sits across the street from the former Union Pacific Headquarters, which was demolished to make way for the now defunct Wallstreet Tower project.  Lastly, the development could mean a ripple effect throughout downtown.  As best stated by David G. Brown, President and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, in the Omaha World-Herald on September 5, 2012, “Once construction starts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other lots around it develop, too.”

Site work on the former World-Herald Square Plaza appears to already be underway.  The property should be ready for occupancy by December of 2013.

The momentum is building.  Let’s hope there’s more to come.

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