Renovated Gifford Park apartment building is now a 'cool property'

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Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2013 12:00 am

A 1925 English Tudor Revival-style apartment building that had fallen into disrepair and was boarded up and used by squatters and drug dealers now has become a friend again of Omaha's Gifford Park neighborhood.

The Nottingham at 33rd and Burt Streets, vacant for the past three years, has undergone a $3 million rehabilitation, and its 31 apartments are set to open this weekend for lease at market rates.

“It's great to see it back in operation,” area resident Chris Foster said. “It was known as an open air drug haven. That's gone.”

The project was boosted by $535,000 in tax-increment financing, and federal tax credits are expected.

In addition to major renovations inside the three-story, 34,000-square-foot brick complex, the developer razed three rundown houses to add parking and outdoor space.

Investor Sean Mullen, of Nottingham LLC, said he appreciated the investment opportunity that helped transform a “rough” corner into a “cool property” within walking distance to Gold Coast historic mansions, the Omaha Public Schools administration center and Creighton University.

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Mullen said his partnership applied for and was granted a spot for the Nottingham on the National Register of Historic Places.

The listing allows for tax credits to assist in financing. But it also ensured preservation of historical elements such as wood detailing at gable entrances, terra cotta roof tile, precast window planter boxes and medallion accents, metal railings with distinctive “N” detailing.

Graffiti on the exterior was removed and the brown bricks cleaned, said Steve Kuzelka, partner with Holland Basham Architects, which worked on the project.

Inside, hardwood floors were restored where possible and room layouts were largely maintained. Original terrazzo flooring and doors and knobs were saved; oak stair rails and wood benches at midlevel landings were refinished.

Most of the upgrading, Kuzelka said, went to kitchens, bathrooms and electrical and air-conditioning systems.

Dan Fox, a consultant on the project, said the Nottingham stands out also in that it was among Omaha's first projects to feature a new fire-resistant construction material called “cinder blox.”

And while Fox said that Omaha has an abundance of Tudor Revival-style single-family dwellings, his research showed only three other multifamily properties erected in that era with that design.

Indeed, the application for historic designation described the Nottingham as the only known Tudor Revival, “L” Court Garden Apartment in Omaha.

The Nottingham, the application said, is “a solid representative of both the work of a typical builder/developer in Omaha in the mid-1920s and an apartment building constructed for white-collar workers at the end of Omaha's first apartment building boom.”

Gifford Park residents and city planners hope the next wave of Nottingham tenants will be young professionals and students, as the site is near downtown, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton.

College students and military folks will get a $25 monthly discount on rent, said Brandon Johnson of Seldin Co., which is managing the apartments. Rents range from $695 to $1,400.

Most units are one-bedroom, although there are a few with three. Amenities include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, community and fitness rooms and free bike storage.

An open house is scheduled today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Martin Janousek, an architect and member of the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association, said property owners welcome the rehabilitated Nottingham as the neighborhood continues to build momentum in fighting crime and revitalizing its residential streets and business strip.

While under previous ownership, the Nottingham property had been cited for code violations and was closed before the lender foreclosed.

“It's had its bad moments,” said Janousek, adding that he expects it to now anchor that part of the neighborhood.

The expected infusion of pedestrian and bike traffic, Foster said, should enhance the sense of security and community.

“More density is a good thing,” he said. “We celebrate getting more residents.”

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