The Omaha market is fortunate to be home to several major developments that are expected to bring even more new business to this city. And the prospect of a streetcar debuting in 2026 through downtown? That might provide another boost to the already busy commercial real estate market here.
How busy are developers in Omaha? Mutual of Omaha is a good example. The insurer is building a new skyscraper at 1614 Dodge St. in downtown Omaha. The expected completion of this project is 2026.
Then there is the Builders District, being developed by busy Omaha-based developer Noddle Companies.
Kiewit, when it moved its headquarters to 15th and Mike Fahey streets in Omaha, provided the impetus for this mixed-use development. The goal is to populate the area surrounding this building with multifamily units, office space, retail and an urban park.
The Builders District will cover about six city blocks and will include a 130,000-square-foot office building made primarily of timber. The project will also include sports courts, giving people space to play volleyball and pickleball.
“The Builders District will fill a hole in that part of downtown,” said Amy Lawrenson, partner with Omaha law firm Baird Holm. “Noddle knows what it is doing there. That will be a good support for the central business district and should improve the area around Creighton University.”
Heartwood Preserve is another major development that is boosting the entire Omaha commercial real estate market. This 500-acre mixed-use project in west Omaha features, or will feature, seniors housing, multifamily, single-family homes, retail and office uses. Open green space will also be a key at this development located on the former Boys Town site in Omaha.
And yet another boost might be coming soon to downtown Omaha, a new streetcar.
The Omaha Streetcar Authority has proposed a 3-mile streetcar route serving downtown Omaha, running from Cass to Farnam on South 10th Street, Farnam west to 42nd Street and back to 10th Street on Harney. The streetcar will be free for all riders.
The authority says that the streetcar will be built, operated and maintained without an increase in property or sales taxes. Instead, taxes paid by new or redeveloped income-producing commercial and multifamily buildings will pay for the cost of building the streetcar system.
The streetcar is still being explored by Omaha’s city government. Its price tag is expected to be $306 million. In a March presentation, though, the Omaha Streetcar Authority said that it estimates that the streetcar will lead to $3.2 billion in new downtown development over 15 years.
The schedule now calls for the preliminary design of the streetcar project to be completed in 2023, with final design and vehicle procurements also completed this year. If the system is approved, construction of the main line is scheduled to begin in 2024 and end in 2026, with the streetcars going into service later in 2026.
Proponents of the streetcar say that it will lessen the need for more parking in downtown Omaha and reduce the amount of new parking spaces developers will have to provide for their new projects. The streetcar will also free up land for billions of dollars in new development, according to the streetcar authority.
Count Jay Noddle, president and chief executive officer of Noddle Companies, as a fan of the new streetcar. He’s also working hard to make the system a reality, serving as president of the Omaha Streetcar Authority.
Noddle said that Mutual of Omaha’s decision to build its skyscraper at what could be the eastern end of the streetcar line has been one impetus for pushing the streetcar project forward.
Mutual of Omaha’s new building will move about 4,000 jobs in the Omaha area two miles to the east, Noddle said. That creates an eastern employment anchor in the city’s downtown area.
Mutual of Omaha’s new building will join the offices of First National Bank and Union Pacific at the western end of the Gene Leahy Mall, a 9.6-acre park located in Omaha’s The RiverFront, a recreational area of downtown that combines three parks into one space.
“We can now connect the new development on the east side of downtown with the Medical Center neighborhood on the west in our urban core,” Noddle said. “We have to deliver this streetcar to make this happen.”
Mutual of Omaha is relying on the streetcar. The plan is for the company’s employees to ride the streetcar to get from Mutual of Omaha’s parking location to the new tower.
“The streetcar route will connect the convention center and our baseball field, Charles Schwab Field, with the rest of downtown,” Noddle said. “There is a lot of available land and under-utilized buildings along the route. To say that this streetcar will be a shot in the arm for the urban core is an understatement.”