FIRST IN THE WORLD-HERALD
A hotel-condo project and a pair of globally known companies are among the latest to stake out a home in a fast-developing commercial area of west Omaha.
When it starts to rise this spring near 180th Street and West Dodge Road, the 120-room Aloft will be the city's first modern hotel topped with private residences.
Moving into a nearby office building scheduled to be done in late summer will be Lindsay Corp. and Sojern, both Nebraska-born businesses whose new digs will allow each to unite a now geographically divided local workforce.
They're part of a growing bunch of businesses continuing to transform former farmland west of Village Pointe shopping center and south of the West Dodge corridor. The $93 million Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital opened in 2016, joining other newcomers including Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate and Pitch Pizzeria.
Currently under construction is a four-story office building to be anchored in part by Core Bank. On about four acres nearby, Boh Kurylo of the Lerner Co. expects to see some type of housing development. He said he hopes to seal that land deal soon.
Now, activity is picking up on the west side of 180th Street, east of the sprawling Broadmoor Hills apartment complex.
Developer Ron Cizek said tenant leases at his rising office building at 18125 Burke St. have gone so swiftly that before the year ends he plans to start building a second, similarly sized office structure next door.
"That whole Village Pointe area is hot," said Dale Scott of CBRE/Mega, who works with Cizek. "Some think it's a little too far west. But almost every building we've built people think is too far west — then they look back in five years and it becomes the middle of Omaha again."
Deepak Gangahar says his company, Anant Enterprises, bought nine acres just east of Cizek's property about three years ago. He and partner Kirti Trivedi saw a need for an upper-end hotel to serve the growing area, and soon they'll break ground at 215 S. 181st St. on a brand that targets millennials.
The local Aloft, which is in the Marriott family, will feature techy amenities standard to its other hotels around the world: digital scrolling news ticker tapes; four-panel video walls; keyless room entry; charging stations for cars; and billiards and pingpong tables in the lobby to spark interaction. (A robotic butler is expected in the future.)
But the Anant Enterprises version, which will span about three acres, also will include non-prototype elements intended to draw an audience beyond hotel guests, said Amanda Schnatz and Jeremy Carlson of Slate Architecture, which is working on the design. Among those additions: a 300-person banquet hall and a sports bar and restaurant with an outdoor patio.
"Our vision is to have a big restaurant not only to cater to the hotel patrons, but all of Omaha," said Gangahar, whose company has developed hotels in the downtown area including the fitness-centric Even Hotel.
Also separating the Aloft from others is its fifth floor, which will be private condos occupied by the hotel's owners. If demand exists, Gangahar said he would build a separate condo project on at least part of the company's remaining six acres of property.
Brent Brummer, vice president of Sojern, a travel data firm, said the area's hotels, restaurants and shopping options played a big role in the decision to lease about 40,000 square feet on the top floor of Cizek's office structure.
Brummer said that Sojern's Omaha workforce — the largest of its 13 global sites — currently is split between two locations and "has been growing like crazy" over the last few years. Its main lease is expiring soon, and a goal was to get the more than 150 local employees on the same floor.
Leaders of Sojern (founded in Omaha, now based in San Francisco) looked at spaces frommidtown to west Omaha along the Dodge corridor. Brummer said a check with employees showed little interest in downtown, as most live west and didn't want the extra commute and parking challenges.
Being close to the Dodge corridor was a priority, and the Cizek building was not far from Sojern's existing main office in the former Prestige World Class restaurant and dance club overlooking Pacific Springs Golf Course.
"We do a lot of team lunches and happy hours," Brummer said, adding that his team already has favorite haunts near their future home. "We're hoping new things will sprout up and we're excited to be a part of that."
The worldwide headquarters of Lindsay Corp. has been based near 111th and Blondo Streets since the office was built specifically for the manufacturer of farm irrigation and road infrastructure products nearly a decade ago. Its engineering and technology crew has overflowed to a second site, North Park business park.
Lindsay's upcoming November move to about 55,000 square feet in the Cizek building will allow the local workforce to be under one roof and should increase the company's visibility and profile, said Chief Financial Officer Brian Ketcham.
"We're kind of tucked away today," he said of the current headquarters.
Ketcham said Lindsay leadership looked at spots from the downtown riverfront and westward. They weremindful of future recruitment, growing areas of Omaha and a younger workforce that Ketcham said tends to move west when starting families.
"This particular location really fit us," he said, adding that the site offers easy access to the Dodge corridor and is more convenient (compared with downtown) for travel back and forth from its plant in Lindsay, Nebraska.
Of the company's 1,400 employees worldwide, more than 100 are based in Omaha. The new headquarters will have room for about 30 to 40 percent growth, Ketcham said, and will allow for a more modern and efficient collaborative work environment.
Scott, the CBRE/Mega executive vice president, said he has a few prospective tenants already for Cizek's next Class A office building in that area west of Village Pointe. There's also about 20,000 square feet yet to fill in the building to be shared with Lindsay and Sojern.
On about 24 acres north of the Cizek buildings, closer to the Dodge corridor, developers envision a few higher-end restaurants, a possible strip retail center and perhaps more offices.