After years of substantial investment in a revitalized downtown by city stakeholders, Omaha’s urban center is booming like never before. The renewed vibrance of the city’s core has garnered national attention as one of the United States’ most successful downtown revitalization projects in the past few decades. Last August, this ongoing resurgence hit another milestone with the opening of the long-awaited Capitol District project. The project has not only further enlivened downtown but also has created new jobs, sparked more development in the area and set the stage for the upcoming transformation of the city’s riverfront.
A Destination Dining and Entertainment District
At a site that was once the home of a Swanson food plant where TV dinners were made, and most recently city-owned cement parking lots, the $205 million Capitol District spans about 5.4 acres and includes a 333-room Marriott hotel and a 218-unit apartment building. These two 12-story structures flank a football-field-sized outdoor plaza that serves as a “modern town square,” according to Mike Moylan of Shamrock Development, the developer behind the project. This outdoor space serves as a plaza where people can eat, drink and relax while watching a game or movie on the LED big screen, or dance to live music at an outdoor concert. Designed to be multifunctional, the plaza can accommodate everything from small gatherings to large events for up to 2,500 people.
The Marriott hotel kicked off the official opening of The Capitol District when it welcomed its first guests in 2017. The hotel capitalizes on the outdoor plaza with an 11,000-square-foot ballroom/convention room overlooking the area. Additional features include a signature restaurant and a Starbucks. The Capitol District Apartments also take advantage of the plaza, with a community patio overlooking the outdoor space and many units featuring individual balconies.
The Capitol District also includes 90,000 square feet of entertainment-related retail space that wraps around the plaza and offers various dining and entertainment options. Another feature is an eight-level parking garage with 505 public and private spaces. The structure is connected to the District by two skywalks.
There’s more development to come, according to the Shamrock team. The developer is working on plans for a multi-story, mixed-use building on The Capitol District’s southern edge, while on the northern side a retail-focused building is already built and partially leased. The latter building provides about 21,000 square feet on two levels and connects to the parking garage via skywalk.
A Central Hub
The Capitol District’s unique location is significant because it connects all of downtown by linking Omaha’s Central Business District (CBD), North Downtown, the Old Market and the Riverfront. To the east of the development is the CHI Health Center, a 1.1 million-square-foot arena and convention center, and to the north is TD Ameritrade Park, the 24,000-seat stadium built to accommodate the College World Series. The Holland Performing Arts Center is to the south, along with an employment hub featuring many of Omaha’s largest office buildings. The density of the district will support these great venues but also draw people from the entire metropolitan area with its unique tenant mix and plaza programming.
With so many amenities in a central location, The Capitol District is attracting employers and employees alike to downtown and convincing them to stay there. With this in mind, AmeriSphere Properties has completed a beautiful $25 million, six-story, mixed-use apartment building kitty-corner from the Marriott. The building will have retail tenants on the ground level along with four floors of apartments and a penthouse level.
Setting the Stage for Riverfront Revitalization
With The Capitol District’s successful opening, the stage seems to be set for the long-anticipated redevelopment of Omaha’s riverfront, which has the potential to become a major boon to the city. That potential may soon become reality, as the city’s Riverfront Revitalization Project officially broke ground in February of this year. The $300 million project aims to transform Lewis and Clark Landing, the Gene Leahy Mall, and Heartland of America Park into major parks, with hopes for completion by 2024.
Phase one of the plan will turn the mall into a street-level park with open lawns, play areas and a performance pavilion. The redevelopment will connect the mall to the riverfront and include a river promenade along the site’s east side. Work on the Lewis and Clark Landing and Heartland of America Park will begin later, likely in 2020.
More riverfront-area projects are underway. In one major example, the Omaha Planning Board has unanimously approved the first phase of a plan to redevelop the Conagra campus southeast of 10th and Farnam Streets. The project will encompass a five-story building with retail and office space as well as 375 apartments—all surrounding a 720-space parking garage. A pedestrian plaza will also be included. Construction on the $105 million project is slated to begin this fall.
Years of Commitment Come to Fruition
The revitalization of downtown Omaha is the fruit of years of planning and input by all sectors of the community, including city, civic and business leaders, as well as the public. Area businesses invested millions of their own dollars, philanthropists contributed funds, and public money was poured into the effort. The result is a common vision realized, for the benefit of all city residents.
As a member of the Omaha community, First National Bank is proud to have been part of the team that brought The Capitol District to life. First National Bank Senior Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Mike Kuester echoes the community’s excitement about downtown Omaha today and in the future. “In commercial real estate, we’re lucky in what we do, because we get to see the projects we finance come to life. We can see parts of the community that have been revitalized, and that’s something in which everyone on our team takes pride.”
As Omaha’s resurgence continues, First National Bank, and the rest of the city will have much to be proud of.
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