When asked what kind of assurance he could give that his $176 million downtown development proposal would get done, Mike Moylan told the review committee that he couldn't give a commitment in this difficult economy.
But what the president of Shamrock Development can offer is his own long-standing personal and professional investment in downtown Omaha, along with a team of development partners he calls world class.
“We have put together the best team that will get the job done,” Moylan said.
Officials from the City of Omaha and Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority selected Shamrock's team to transform the intersection of 10th Street and Capitol Avenue with a new hotel, apartments and shops. The Mayor's Office announced the choice Thursday, praising the proposal for matching the city's downtown development vision.
Now city and MECA officials will work with Shamrock to hammer out a redevelopment agreement aimed at making the project happen.
Coming off the WallStreet Tower flop, city officials are keenly aware of the need to find a developer capable of carrying its concept to completion.
In 2005, the city chose a Kansas City developer to build the high-rise WallStreet Tower, but six years later, the site of the former Union Pacific headquarters is a vacant block downtown.
The city has lost control of the property, and the developer, who couldn't secure financing through the down economy, is marketing the site for sale.
Two blocks away, Shamrock's team is proposing to build a 350-room, 14-story Marriott Hotel, 280 apartments and space for offices and shops. It says the project can be done by December 2014 — a little over three years from now.
Before the project can move forward, officials must negotiate how much the city will provide in tax incentives and how much it might pay to build a parking garage to replace the surface parking that will be lost.
The proposal still must go before the Omaha planning board and the City Council for approval.
While calling the developer's selection an important step forward, Omaha Planning Director Rick Cunningham cautioned that a deal with the developer is “not anywhere near done.”
Cunningham, who didn't want to comment in detail, said he saw aspects of the plan that led him to believe it has a good probability of success.
Shamrock Development was picked over two competing proposals to develop the city-owned property.
Shamrock plans to develop the surface parking lots now used for the CenturyLink Center Omaha on the northwest corner of 10th and Capitol, as well as the smaller, empty property on the intersection's southeast corner.
The city and MECA solicited proposals for the site — with MECA hoping to attract another convention center hotel and the city hoping to maximize the potential of prime property on the doorstep of the CenturyLink Center.
By going with Shamrock, the city and MECA turned down Buckingham Cos. of Indianapolis and local developer Jay Noddle of the Noddle Cos., who teamed up with America First Real Estate Group, HDR Inc. and Kiewit Building Group.
While Noddle's group contained respected local names, it lacked a commitment for a hotel developer.
The Indianapolis company's hotel offered 100 fewer rooms than the 350-room hotel that MECA sought.
MECA Board Chairman Jim Vokal said of Shamrock's plan, “It's a complete proposal with a great hotel flag and an experienced downtown developer.”
Said MECA President Roger Dixon, “Shamrock's proposal integrates our need for more restaurants and diverse entertainment options, which we believe will attract people throughout the region to Omaha.”
Shamrock already has a footprint at 10th and Capitol, marketing the area as “The Capitol District.” It redeveloped the 1009 Capitol Building and the 1000 Dodge Building around the block. The two projects brought in condo lofts, DJ's Dugout Sports Bar, Nosh Wine Lounge and the Capitol Lounge.
The developer also renovated the Paxton at 14th and Farnam Streets into upscale condos.
Moylan, who has been developing downtown since the 1990s, has lived at 10th and Dodge Streets since 1995.
Moylan said he is passionate about downtown Omaha and excited about the development possibilities. He also said he feels a responsibility to live up to people's expectations for the site.
Shamrock's development team also includes hotel developer O'Reilly Hospitality Management, apartment developers McWhinney and MetroPlains and architect Leo A. Daly.
The diversified team should help spread the developers' risk on the project.
Moylan said financing standards for development projects have changed with the economy.
But on this project, Moylan said each individual developer will seek out financing for a single phase, instead of finding one large loan for the entire project.
While construction would start on different schedules, Moylan said the goal is for everything to open at the same time.
“We're absolutely excited,” he said. “We're very proud of the team we were able to assemble.”
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