Concerned about slow business growth in north downtown Omaha, the owners of a hotel in the neighborhood plan a bold step to quicken the pace of urban revival there.
They propose to spend $9.2 million to erect a five-story apartment building at 16th and Nicholas Streets, on an industrial corner not yet reached by the emerging entertainment, cultural and business district.
Nichol Flats would have 67 market-rate apartments above first-floor office and commercial space.
Kirti Trivedi said he and his business partner, Deepak Gangahar, hope that “cleaning up the corner” will help their current investment in the Holiday Inn Downtown Omaha, as well as encourage future investment by others.
“Our main goal is to spur more development in north downtown,” Trivedi said. “This will finish off the block. It will promote more foot traffic. ... And by cleaning up the block, it will probably make the customers in the area feel safer.”
He said that some hotel guests have complained about being harassed by homeless people and that the vacant, boarded-up Diamond Die industrial building on the corner creates a bad impression of the area and attracts vagrants.
The developers would demolish the current building and start new.
Steve Jensen, a consultant to the Omaha City Planning Department, said such a development most likely would have the effect Trivedi says he seeks.
North downtown growth has hit a lull in recent years, after more than $1 billion in private and public investment began transforming Omaha's north downtown and riverfront.
“The primary thing has been the economy,” Jensen said. “There was a lot of growth in the area at the time of the arena/convention center and the ballpark. Then the area took a little breather to figure out what it was going to be like.”
Jensen, who helped craft north downtown's revival when he was the city planning director, has his office in the TipTop Building apartment and commercial building, a half-block from the proposed Nichol Flats.
“This is just the first of what I would expect to be several new developments coming,” Jensen said.
Nichol Flats, he said, would “solidify that corner, that sort of edge to north downtown.”
It's an interesting corner, a transitional zone in a neighborhood in transition.
What the neighborhood looks like depends on which way you face. To the south and east, it looks like a downtown business and tourist district.
Nichol Flats would share a block with the TipTop Building, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Downtown and other businesses. Tenants of the new building would live within a few blocks of TD Ameritrade Park, the CenturyLink Center, Hot Shops Art Center, the Mastercraft Building creative business center, Slowdown nightclub and Creighton University.
Downtown corporate jobs are nearby. It's a four-minute bike ride from 16th and Nicholas Streets to the bike rack at Union Pacific Railroad's corporate headquarters.
Looking north and west from the corner gives a different perspective.
To the north, an empty expanse of industrial and railway land stretches for blocks to ConAgra Foods Grain Processing Co. elevators.
Across 16th Street to the west, an automobile salvage yard stretches to the Siena-Francis House homeless shelter and related social services.
Homeless people walk past, as trucks rumble by on the way to and from nearby industries.
Jensen said the environment wouldn't be off-putting to the type of residents envisioned for the area — artists, small entrepreneurs and other creative people.
“The market in that area is for younger people who are fine with the sort of relationships there are in the neighborhood,” he said.
Anant Enterprises LLC, headed by Trivedi and Gangahar, would invest $3.5 million of owner equity and $4 million in bank financing, according to documents filed with the Omaha Planning Board.
The company is asking for $1.7 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF, in which a portion of property tax revenue resulting from new construction helps to pay development costs.
The request is scheduled to go before the Omaha Planning Board at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The building would have a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments. They would range from 850 square feet to 1,100 square feet.
They would have nine-foot-high ceilings throughout, private balconies, stone and wood flooring and granite countertops.
The apartments would be “eco-friendly,” according to documents. Trivedi said the design would maximize ambient lighting and use LED lights. Recycled materials would be use for flooring.
“We thought apartments would be the best choice, the best use for this corner,” Trivedi said. “We also are fully aware that (the neighborhood) will ramp up slowly. ... We thought we would jump in and see what we could do to spur further development.”