Two blocks in downtown Omaha that once held nothing more exciting than parking spaces are now blossoming, with a new hotel and apartment building serving as bookends to the city’s latest mixed-use project, the Capitol District.
When complete, the Capitol District mixed-use project will inlcude 90,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 20,000 square feet of office uses between the already completed Omaha Marriott Downtown, a 333-room full-service hotel, and the 218-unit Capitol District Apartments.
The development, located between 10th and 12th streets just north of Capitol Avenue, should provide yet another boost to downtown Omaha. That’s good news, considering the city itself remains one of the most resilient Midwest hubs, with a commercial real estate market that, though it has its ups and downs, rarely sees big drops in activity.
The brokers doing business here say that Omaha’s stready streak of solid commercial sales, leases and new developments is only continuing as 2017 moves toward the winter months. And they expect developments such as the Capitol District to only stretch this streak further, into 2018 and beyond.
“This is the first dining and entertainment district the city of Omaha has ever seen,” said Boh Kurylo, executive vice president with the Lerner Company, which is marketing the Capitol District. “It’s at the corner of Main and Main, right across the street from the Capitol building, right near the CenturyLink Center and right next door to TD Ameritrade Park. This will be the central point of anyone living downtown or coming to the downtown. It will become the cultural hub of the downtown area.”
Kurylo envisions a day when visitors and residents travel from restaurant to pub to entertainment center within the district, a drink in hand. Omaha’s government officials have already granted the Capitol District a liquor and entertainment license that allows visitors to the district to do this.
“It is something Omaha has never seen,” Kurylo said.
Demand has already been strong here. Of the 90,000 square feet of retail space available, 20,000 has already been leased. Other businesses are looking closely at the district, too. Kurylo said that the district is attracting the interest of everything from fine-dining restaurants to fast-casual eateries to country-and-western bars.
The goal, he said, is to attract everyone from college kids to business people to the district.
What makes this the right time for such a project? Kurylo points to a modest but steady growth in the economy throughout the Omaha region.
“There was a brief down-surge in the economy here,” he said. “But everything is coming back now. This has always been a strong Midwestern city. We don’t have the highs or lows that some other major cities have. We have strong, steady growth here. Our convention business continues to grow. We have a strong sports presence with the NCAA and the College World Series. Our city is becoming more prominent and visible from an exposure standpoint. And we have seen a continued growth of businesses coming into the area.”
While an influx of businesses has been a positive for Omaha, so has a growth in residential construction, both single-family homes and multifamily residences. A good example are the apartment units that have opened in the Capitol District. Kurylo said that the building is nearly three-quarters leased up already.
This residential construction boom, then, has provided another boost to Omaha’s economy.
“They can’t keep up building apartments fast enough,” Kurylo said. “Omaha is on a surge. That might be a relative term compared to some other markets, but there is strong growth in Omaha right now.”
The Capitol District project itself is proceeding on schedule. The apartment building, hotel and parking garage are all already open. Kurylo says that some retailers should open by November of this year with a large portion coming online in the spring of 2018. One last building will open in the summer of 2018.
Kurylo said that downtown Omaha’s nightlife and entertainment has historically been focused on the Old Market area, a strip of bars, restaurants and shops lining cobblestone streets. The Capitol District, though, will provide visitors and residents alike with one more option for entertainment, shopping and dining in the city’s downtown, Kurylo said.
“Omaha is a hard-working city. We have major insurance companies here, financial centers, business headquarters,” Kurylo said. “The growth here is continuing. We need more projects like this in the downtown area, and I think the Capitol District will draw even more people to the downtown.”