Plans to transform the West Haymarket in Lincoln from a former rail yard into a project including an arena, restaurants, retailers and residences lured Olsson Associates to consider a corporate headquarters there.
The opportunity for company staffers to see from their office windows a project they helped to develop sealed the deal.
“The most exciting thing is that this place is as front and center as any other of the most significant projects we've worked on,” said John S. Olsson, senior vice president of the engineering consulting firm and son of founder John E. Olsson. “Now, we get to have our employees right in the middle of that.”
This week, Olsson announced plans to move its headquarters with 200 employees to a $16.8 million, 80,000-square-foot building on the southwest corner of Canopy and P Streets. It's the first major office space announced for the $345.9 million West Haymarket redevelopment project.
Olsson's move adds to the arena project's overall goal to revitalize the West Haymarket area through commercial development in addition to the arena itself, said Dan Marvin, project manager for the $180 million Pinnacle Bank Arena.
As of January, the overall redevelopment project has had 2,371 workers, including engineering and professional services. Nearly 60 percent are from Lincoln or Lancaster County and about 30 percent are from elsewhere in Nebraska.
They've helped to construct the arena and other development, including entertainment district the Yard and the 71-unit Canopy Street Lofts currently under construction. A Hyatt Place hotel is also planned for the area. In total, Marvin is anticipating about $100 million in commercial development south of the arena.
“Before the doors have even opened,” he said, “we're close to 70 percent of the way there.”
Olsson isn't a stranger to the area. The firm led a group of architecture and engineering firms to implement the project's infrastructure. Olsson said the group helped with about 15 different individual projects as part of the overall West Haymarket redevelopment. The designs are finished and the projects are now in their final construction phases.
“It's been crazy since the minute the starting gun went off until now,” he said, “ but we see the finish line.”
The firm also isn't a stranger to Omaha, where it employs 110 people between offices in Aksarben Village and La Vista. Notable Omaha projects include the Sterling Ridge Development; parking and traffic management systems for TD Ameritrade Park and CenturyLink Center Omaha; and basin studies and design work for the city's combined sewer overflow program.
The new Lincoln headquarters, a four-story building developed by Scott-Woodbury-Wiegert LLC, will house Olsson in about 40,000 square feet on the second and third floors. A retailer will be on the first floor. The fourth floor does not yet have a tenant.
Previously announced as “Project Oscar,” the building is expected to break ground in April, pending approval by the Lincoln City Council, and is estimated for completion by August 2014.
The West Haymarket area was ideal for the firm because of its proximity to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's campus. The firm had more than 20 UNL students working there in 2012. Of their more than 700 current employees, about 130 are UNL graduates.
The move will help to further the firm's retention and recruitment efforts of Nebraska's young talent, Olsson said. The firm's Lincoln office employs engineers, scientists, surveyors, administrative support and corporate leadership and business operations staff.
Olsson's headquarters have relocated around Lincoln's downtown several times since the company started in 1956 with John E. Olsson as the sole employee. Its first home was in the Sharp Building, followed by moves to the First National Bank Building (now the U.S. Bank Building), NBC Center (now the Wells Fargo Center) and to its current headquarters on the Lincoln Mall between the State Capitol and the City-County Building.
With their lease there coming up, Olsson said a citywide search ensued, with the downtown as an obvious draw to the company with a deep history there.
“Our checklist kept bringing us back to that area,” said vice president Todd Lorenz.
Wendy Birdsall, president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Partnership for Economic Development, called Olsson's choice to relocate in the West Haymarket an increased commitment to Lincoln.
“This is a company that has been part of the fabric of our community for over 50 years, and it is important to our long-term prosperity that they continue to be able to grow and be successful in Lincoln,” she said.
Lincoln City Councilman Carl Eskridge said the vision for the West Haymarket has always included a combination of uses, including housing, retail and office space, and Olsson's staff will be good for business there. The addition of Olsson and other private sector investments, he said, validates the public investments.
For now, Olsson said, they're ready to break ground so employees can enjoy the soon-to-be completed revitalized area.
“In a lot of ways,” he said, “it's a fresh start.”
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