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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Newest Real Estate Development in Downtown Omaha
Downtown apartment plans speed up
By Jeffrey Robb
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
A series of new apartment projects is marking a development push outside the core of downtown Omaha.
The six projects — on the Old Market's western fringe, the western reaches of downtown and south of downtown — represent a shift in the downtown housing market.
After focusing on condo projects for years, developers are turning their focus to apartments to address a shortage of housing for younger residents who like downtown but don't want to become homeowners.
And with central downtown and the Old Market well-established, developers are moving their focus outside that core, and not just in the growing north downtown district that's home to TD Ameritrade Park and Qwest Center Omaha.
Across the area, almost $50 million worth of apartment developments are in the works to bring a combined 476 market-rate units onto the market.
The latest proposals involve new construction, with buildings planned for 13th and Jones Streets, 14th and Leavenworth Streets and South 10th Street.
Three other apartment projects already are under construction: a major renovation of the Farm Credit Building at 19th and Douglas Streets, a makeover of the Rorick along St. Mary's Avenue and development of the new Capitol Rows project along 24th Street between the Joslyn Museum and Interstate 480.
Now, in between the bookends of downtown and the $300 million Midtown Crossing, momentum seems to be building for even more redevelopment in what typically has been a no-man's land for commercial investment.
Jamie Grayson-Berglund, director of community development for the Destination Midtown initiative, said thearea is on the brink of some exciting projects.
Leavenworth Street is one area getting a look from developers and study from Destination Midtown. The midtown group is looking at changes to Leavenworth's traffic lanes, perhaps a switch to a two-way street with parallel parking, in hopes of spurring economic development from the Old Market west to the Park Avenue/Interstate 480 area.
“I think the timing is right,” she said.
Since a number of apartments were converted to condos in recent years, a shortage of apartments has developed in the downtown market, said Tasha Moss, a downtown real estate agent and owner of Prudential Ambassador's Urban Omaha team.
Although she doesn't handle rentals, she figures she gets five calls a day from people who want to rent downtown but can't find anything available.
In the popular Old Market, Moss said, the options are running out to build or redevelop properties.
“Everything's pushing out just a little bit farther,” she said.
Neighborhood development was a major goal of the City of Omaha's 2009 downtown master plan, which set a 20-year target of adding 4,800 new apartments, condos and other residences around the area.
“The near neighborhoods around downtown are starting to happen because people want to live downtown,” said Jed Moulton, manager of urban design with the City Planning Department.
Todd Heistand of NuStyle Development Corp., who is working on the Farm Credit project after developing buildings in the Old Market and north downtown, said the western push is a natural progression as interest grows in living downtown. The area has plenty of land and affordable buildings available to rehab, he said.
Heistand said he's glad to see other developers getting into the market.
The Lund Co. is one company participating in the trend with a project to take the Rorick, at 22nd Street and St. Mary's Avenue, back from condos to apartments.
John Lund, chief executive officer of the Lund Co., said developers are looking for the next closest opportunities to build on downtown's success. Lund said he expects activity to pick up over the next three to five years.
“You run out of room, and you move in different directions,” he said.
America First, which is proposing two new apartment buildings on the Old Market's fringe, plans to make those projects work, in part, by combining management with two neighboring apartment buildings it operates, said Mark Hiatt, president of America First Real Estate Group.
The company operates properties around the country, and Hiatt said downtown Omaha has held up as one of the best rental markets in recent years.
“We're bullish on downtown Omaha,” he said. “We think there's still a lot of demand for housing.”
West of the Old Market, the activity has picked up enough that a new neighborhood group has formed as the Market West Neighborhood Alliance.
The area includes a collection of old warehouses, residences and offices between 13th and 17th Streets, from Howard Street to the railroad tracks south of downtown. The neighborhood's western border is the Douglas County jail.
Chad Eacker, the group's new president, said he hopes to see the area develop more of a neighborhood feel than the Old Market, which offers more entertainment and restaurants.
Eacker, who is co-owner and creative director with multimedia studio Delinea Design at 14th and Jones Streets, said he'd like to see restaurants and shops that would be convenient for neighborhood residents.
“We'd really like to see this area grow and improve and just see a lot of potential,” he said.