Developer proud of Gavilon's new downtown home; firm's move begins next month

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 12:00 am

From grassy plaza to glassy corporate headquarters, it’s taken Opus Development Co. 14 months to transform the property at 1331 Capitol Ave.

This recent completion of the Gavilon headquarters adds another project to Minneapolis-based Opus’ long list of office, commercial and educational facilities in the region, this time contributing to the city’s decadelong effort to redevelop Capitol Avenue.

“We think it’s a modern, transformative building,” Opus executive vice president Marshall Burton said of the five-story, $44 million project.

Opus will lease the building long-term to Gavilon, the Omaha grain and commodity-trading firm. Gavilon officials said they plan to make the move from their current location on the ConAgra Foods campus in phases starting Dec. 6 and wrapping up by the end of the year, weather permitting. A grand opening event is in the works.

Burton thanked the teams of subcontractors who worked on the project in all weather for helping Opus deliver the project on budget and on schedule.

“We’re really proud of it,” he said.

In recent days, crews have been washing windows, planting landscaping, moving in furniture, setting up exercise equipment and hanging digital displays over the trading floor.

The third-floor trading space was constructed without interior columns to break up the view, Burton said. At 50,000 square feet, he said, “From a structural and engineering standpoint, it’s very cool.”

The building also features an interior parking garage with 205 spaces, with an entrance off 13th Street.

But it’s the main entrance that got extra attention in the planning stages. Burton said city officials asked that the front entrance be on Capitol Avenue as part of a larger plan to improve that corridor.

“It was important that the front door be a catalyst to more investment along Capitol,” Burton said.

The city refers to it as a “critical corridor” in economic development marketing materials. The stretch from 10th Street to 17th Street was renovated starting a decade ago with street signs and lighting, landscaping, granite curbs and brick sidewalks. In 2005, First National Bank installed bronze sculptures at Pioneer Courage Park at 15th Street.

All four sides of the building needed to promote an enjoyable “pedestrian experience,” with landscaping and human-scale architecture, said Dave Fanslau, acting assistant director for urban planning for the city.

“It’s downtown, and we don’t like to turn the back of the building to any of those streets,” he said.

But the north side was the most important facade, he said, with the Capitol Avenue corridor’s bookends of Central High School and the CenturyLink Center as destinations.

Two potential projects would further improve the corridor. A full-service hotel and mixed-use development is in planning stages at 10th and Capitol, on a parking lot that’s the site of the former Pinnacle Foods plant. Another development group is proposing a 25-story office and condo tower on the vacant lot just west of Gavilon.

Gavilon’s 1331 Capitol St. site, between the Omaha World-Herald building and the newspaper’s press plant, was home to The World-Herald from 1948 to 2006. That building faced south.

Gavilon traces its roots to Peavey Co., a grain merchandising and processing firm founded in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1874. The firm went public in 1973 and was acquired in 1982 by ConAgra, which sold it to investors in 2008. The company was privately held by its management and a group of funds led by Ospraie Special Opportunities Fund.

Earlier this year, the firm’s agriculture business was acquired by Japanese trading and investment firm Marubeni. Its energy unit will be sold for $890 million in cash to NGL Energy Partners LP of Tulsa in a deal expected to close in December.

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