Omaha area has seen remarkable changes since last shareholders meeting

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Posted: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:51 am, Tue May 20, 2014.

New entertainment spots, new hotel rooms, a massive new outlet mall. The return of a landmark lagoon meandering through the city's core.

Omaha has these and other different sights, sounds and tastes since Berkshire Hathaway shareholders converged here last May. Take a look at some of the changes:

>> For the first time in years, perhaps 15, all the water features in downtown's two main parks are operational. “Everything is rockin' and rollin',” said City Parks Director Brook Bench. At the Gene Leahy Mall, the lagoon was dredged and water has returned. Around the lagoon is new lighting and either new or repaired segments of limestone wall and walking trails. At the Heartland of America Park, two fountains and a cascading waterfall are repaired and running; visitors now can watch the light show at the big fountain.

Berkshire Live

Live coverage: Our live chat begins at 7:30 a.m. and continues through the question-and-answer session with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. At 5 p.m., join a post-meeting chat with World-Herald Berkshire Hathaway reporter Steve Jordon.

>> A 350,000-square-foot, $112 million Nebraska Crossings Outlets shopping center opened in the suburb of Gretna — featuring new-to-Nebraska brands such as Michael Kors and Kate Spade New York. The area's first fully digital mall has interactive, touch-screen kiosks; and customers can use a QR code scanner on mobile devices to download information. The center also offers a second place to shop for Borsheims jewels. The Berkshire Hathaway company in November launched a 5,500-square-foot Borsheims Boutique outlet targeting younger, value-conscious shoppers.

>> A few high-profile downtown Omaha restaurant spots have different tenants. Those who remember the storied French Cafe, which operated for four decades at 1013 Howard St., now will find there a modern French bistro called Le Bouillon. Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery has moved into the former Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Omaha's riverfront. The Storz opening relaunched the Storz beer brand in Omaha after a 40-year hiatus.

>> New breweries — such as Borgata Brewery and Distillery downtown, and the Benson Brewery and Infusion Brewing Co. in Benson — have joined veterans like downtown's Upstream Brewing Co. and La Vista's Lucky Bucket. (Note also that Krug Park and Crescent Moon were named recently as two of the best beer bars in the country by Draft Magazine.)

>> New options on the downtown hotel front include Nebraska's first Hyatt and a Residence Inn by Marriott that used to be a historic federal office building. The 159-room Hyatt Place stands 10 stories at 12th and Jackson Streets. The 152-room Residence Inn at 15th and Dodge Streets blends modern amenities with historical elements, including a 1930s FBI most-wanted poster (with mobster faces of Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker and others) unearthed during renovation.

>> Gavilon's new global headquarters was erected at 14th Street and Capitol Avenue, on a city block that used to be green space known as the World-Herald Square Plaza. The $44 million, roughly 130,000-square-foot glass office building contains a state-of-the-art trading floor. The company in July was sold for $2.8 billion to Japanese general trading firm Marubeni.

>> Aksarben Village in midtown, near 67th and Center Streets, has grown. The new corporate headquarters for retailer Gordmans just opened. A Marriott Residence Inn is being constructed, along with a new office building. Across Center Street to the south visitors will see the start of a new $87.9 million University of Nebraska at Omaha sports arena.

>> Lots of apartment buildings have sprung up, from the five-story Jones13 Apartments in downtown to the three-story Spaces Apartments in midtown to Springs at Legacy Commons in west Omaha (to mention just a few). Other apartments, including the Highline, the Wire and the Slate in downtown, were converted from old office structures.

>> At the Midtown Crossing campus near 31st Street and Turner Boulevard, a permanent outdoor stage and dancing area called the Pavilion at Turner Park has been built. A few new stores also opened, including the Ugly Sister Boutique and Me & Me.

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