MECA gives new fuel to north downtown Omaha development plan

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:00 am

It's more than a year behind schedule, but a development that could provide a major boost for Omaha's north downtown appears to be moving forward.

Developers and City of Omaha officials are hashing out the details of a planned 350-room hotel, apartments and shops to be built near the intersection of 10th Street and Capitol Avenue, just across from the CenturyLink Center.

The project recently got the approval of another major stakeholder: the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs the CenturyLink Center and the parking lots on which the development would be built.

Roger Dixon, MECA's president, said his organization has agreed to turn over its development rights to the former Pinnacle Foods property to the city, which would then sell the land to Shamrock Development.

In exchange, the city will reimburse MECA for $1.4 million in lost parking spots. And if the development moves forward as planned, Dixon said, MECA stands to make even bigger gains for conventions at the CenturyLink Center.

“It just puts us in a totally different strata as far as the meeting and convention business,” he said. “We (would) now have approximately 1,000 rooms across the street. Some of the reasons we have lost conventions in the past is because we've spread the convention delegates out over too many properties. With this addition, we would no longer have to do that.”

Shamrock Development projects include:

>> 1000 Dodge Building, 10th and Dodge Streets. A $6 million renovation of the former Heinz Food Warehouse into 12 residences, a combination of renovated lofts and new construction.

>> The Paxton, 14th and Farnam Streets. A $30 million renovation and development with condominiums and retail space.

>> Papillion Professional Park. Development of a four-acre parcel into an office park; two of four lots have been developed.

>> The Barker, a historical landmark at 15th and Farnam Streets. Currently undergoing renovation into 48 apartments with a restaurant and medical clinic on the first floor.

But it's not a done deal just yet.

Mike Moylan, president of Omaha's Shamrock Development, said many of the plans are in order for the $200 million project. His firm has signed on a company to operate the full-service Marriott Hotel and has finished a series of environmental studies required before developing the property.

Moylan said he's not ready to announce any other tenants of the development, but the plans have changed little since it was first announced in late 2011.

In addition to the 14-story hotel, the project would include nearly 300 apartments, as well as office and retail space. He said the priority — and the biggest reason for the delay in schedule — was landing a hotel operator in a tough economy.

With that out of the way, Moylan expects his team could begin construction by the end of the year. The hotel and some of the other parts of the development would likely be completed within the following two years.

Before it gets rolling, though, the project would need approval from the Omaha Planning Board and City Council. Developers also need to sort out the funding details, which could include tax increment financing.

Planning Director Rick Cunningham said the city is still negotiating with the developer, but added that the project is a likely candidate for TIF funding.

“It's a major redevelopment project downtown — do I need to say anything else?” he said. “I don't think the project could occur without TIF.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1543, erin.golden@owh.com

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