2 development projects poised to transform west Omaha intersection

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Posted: Monday, August 12, 2013 12:00 am

A pair of development projects are poised to transform a west Omaha intersection — with construction of a proposed office park featuring a cascading fountain and walking trails, and a separate and even larger venture calling for a mix of commercial and residential space.

Together, the projects would cover more than 110 acres of prime property around 192nd Street and West Dodge Road.

“It's out there, on the outer edge of town,” Planning Board Chairman R.J. Neary said. “But most projects on Dodge Street seem to work.”

The Fountain West Office Park, planned on 40 acres southeast of the West Dodge Road and 192nd Street intersection, would be the West Des Moines-based R&R Realty Group's foray into the Omaha market.

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President Mark Rupprecht said his family-owned business has been eyeing Omaha for about 10 years and finally secured an open suburban tract that would be R&R's first new office park since the recession.

“Omaha's been very stable from an economic and even a real estate standpoint,” Rupprecht said during a recent visit. “It's got great companies and is pro-development.”

R&R, which has been around 28 years and owns and manages 6 million square feet of commercial space in the Des Moines metro area, was to submit its formal proposal to city officials this week. Price tag: $75 million to $100 million.

Meanwhile, Jasper Stone Partners of Omaha last week received preliminary approval by the City Planning Board to develop a mix of retail, office and apartments at the southwest corner of 192nd and West Dodge.

Curt Hofer of Jasper Stone declined an interview, except to say that “I am by far the largest player at that intersection, and we absolutely are looking forward to unveiling those plans once we've heard from the City Council.”

Documents submitted to the city show the proposed Gateway Park spanning about 72 acres and including a 500-unit apartment complex as well as about 14 lots for office and retail commercial use. No price tag was provided.

Hofer told city officials earlier that his company had spent millions of dollars and seven years amassing control of more than 200 acres around the intersection, including the land designated today as Gateway Park.

Planning Board members gave their preliminary green light after months of traffic-related refinements and other discussions, including how to avoid forced condemnation of an elderly woman's farmland on that southwest corner. Neary said Jasper Stone Partners told the city it has since reached an agreement with the owner of the Rothermund farm.

On the R&R project, Rupprecht and Brett Bosworth, president of R&R Equity Partners division, are working locally with former U.S. Sen. David Karnes and Tenaska Board Chairman Howard Hawks, who is a project partner.

“R&R brings a product that will complement the corporate office parks on West Dodge,” Hawks said. “This is an exciting opportunity to provide Class A office space that is needed in a prime location.”

Specific design plans for Fountain West have yet to be drawn, but Rupprecht and Bosworth say it would contain up to eight multistory brick and glass buildings with about 540,000 square feet of office space for lease.

Known for its signature water features, R&R said the focal point of the Omaha project would be a pyramid-shaped fountain that lights up in the evening.

Also on the campus would be a long body of water around which will be walking trails and a park plaza.

If approved by the city, R&R expects to build in phases, starting with a 75,000-square-foot structure next spring and would begin filling it in 2015.

Rupprecht said R&R would own the property and be involved for the long haul, establishing a team in Omaha that would manage and maintain what would be the company's sixth major office park. R&R is a full-service real estate company with brokerage, construction, property management, technology and acquisition services.

In addition to Omaha's resilient economy, Bosworth said, R&R was attracted by the low, under 5 percent vacancy rate for Class A office space — which, he said, shows a need for what his company is proposing.

T.J. Twitt of Omaha's Lund Co. has talked previously about the growing shortage of large pieces of top-notch office space to show his clients in suburbia.

“Companies want to be out there because their people, employees, live out there,” he said.

Barry Zoob of Omaha's Colliers International said that while West Dodge Road is a magnet for companies, the proposed Fountain West will battle with other office space being developed nearer to the city's core. Among them, he said, are the Westroads Office Park, Sterling Ridge and Aksarben campuses.

Of Fountain West, he said: “It's pioneering. There is no doubt that over time that area will develop. Today it's on the fringe of the path of development.”

No tenants are confirmed for Fountain West, but Rupprecht said 360 companies lease space in R&R's Iowa properties. And about a quarter already have a presence in the Omaha area.

The hope is as they expand, they'd move to R&R's Omaha park. Rupprecht also hopes to gain a competitive advantage by offering shared amenities such as a high-tech conference center.

“Omaha is a dynamic community with a healthy economy,” he said. “And with the proximity to our other properties, it will be a natural fit for our company.”

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