It was tough, even for the owners, to imagine a mixed-use building rising five stories on a north downtown patch of land wedged between Interstate bridges, railroad tracks and city roads.

But Doug Alvine of anchor tenant Alvine Engineering said he’s pleasantly surprised to feel so at home in the $15.5 million structure on the parcel within eye shot of both TD Ameritrade Park and the CenturyLink Center.

His thought early on: “That’s a horrible location. How could anybody envision this kind of a building on that tiny piece of ground you really had to turn your head to notice?”

Now, though, passers-by stop and stare. Recruiting is easier. (A half-dozen new employees will start work in the next few months.) Potential clients have asked that their meetings be held at Alvine’s new headquarters, as have professional and community groups.

“That really goes a long way to not only help increase business but to create that community presence,” said Alvine. “For us to be able to reinvent ourselves a little bit has really been great.”

Founded in 1961 by dad Ray Alvine, the Omaha-based company now led by sons Doug and Steve is settling into the new home at 12th and Cass Streets, about four blocks north of the 127-year-old digs it had been in for three decades. That property just sold to an Iowa transportation company.

Alvine’s nearly 100 local workers (there are 35 more nationwide) are spread on two lower floors of the 90,000-square-foot structure co-owned with Lanoha Development, which also manages the two upper levels of 46 luxury apartments. The facility marks the first corporate headquarters to be constructed in that downtown area since 2013 when a $44 million, 130,500-square-foot facility at 13th Street and Capitol Avenue was built for grain-trader Gavilon.

While part of the ground floor of the Alvine-Lanoha structure is equipped to house retailers, for now it serves as additional resident parking. Lanoha Development’s Jason Lanoha anticipates demand for shops or eateries in about five years — or, when more workers and tenants come to the area.

Alvine’s entry to the neighborhood, he said, is a step in the right direction. “That’s what it takes before any of the other things happen — jobs.”

Indeed, it’s a new job with Alvine that brings Tucker Rayl, a 22-year-old architectural engineering graduate of the University of Kansas, to work and live downtown.

Come June, he’ll be in a Lanoha Live NoDo unit, just an elevator’s ride to his desk. His one-bedroom apartment rents for about $1,200. Others range from $875 to $2,000. An open house for the residences, which feature a top-floor clubhouse and deck looking toward the College World Series stadium, is scheduled for June 2 starting at 10 a.m.

With student loans to pay, Rayl said he liked the idea of saving on fuel costs by walking or biking to nearby entertainment spots. He said he can save a few bucks by retreating to his on-site apartment at lunchtime to make a sandwich.

“It will be so handy to not have to worry about scraping ice off the windshield, worrying about snow, driving in bad weather conditions,” Rayl said.

The 33,600-square-foot land parcel upon which the Alvine-Lanoha complex sits had been embroiled in controversy before the 2016 construction launch.

The last structure on the site was a condo showroom and office for the failed WallStreet Tower project once planned blocks away. The city had to turn to the courts to regain control of the Cass Street parcel after it sat idle for years as the out-of-town developer’s dream for the tower at 14th and Dodge Streets never got off the ground.

Ultimately, the city solicited proposals to develop the site and in 2015 selected Lanoha Development, which later wooed Alvine as a partner.

Rooted in mechanical and electrical systems design and consultation, Alvine includes a sister brand, IP Design Group, also housed in the new headquarters.

A recent tour reflects high-tech, energy-conscious office space that owners believe will help grow the business, whose projects include work on Union Pacific Railroad’s 19-story headquarters, Northwestern Mutual corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Creighton University’s new School of Dentistry and the design of mechanical and engineering systems at the 80-story One Brickell City Centre in Miami.

Systems integrated into the new Alvine offices aim to showcase cutting-edge systems and services the business can offer clients.

For example, the air distribution system under a raised floor allows workers to adjust a vent (and the flow of cold or hot air) in their individual workspace.

An advanced lighting system adjusts color and brightness levels to complement natural light, while sensors automatically tell window shades when to go up or down to let in optimal light.

Brandon Rich, an Alvine electrical engineer who helped manage the building project, points out a recessed line of light along the floor serving as a way-finding feature. A so-called lighting lab allows him and colleagues to show clients how various light and technology systems work, and the science behind them.

Notable, especially compared with Alvine’s previous digs in an older and dimmer structure, is sunlight streaming through glass panels that wrap the building. Said Rich: “That natural light, the connection to the outside, it makes everybody feel better.”

Brant Yantzer, chief operations manager, said maximizing productivity also meant creating a fun working environment. The office space is dotted with “social collision” areas — including lunchroom lounges, couches, high-top tables and a booth with a big-screen computer as a tabletop.

And while most companies hide bulky computer servers and operations equipment, Alvine displays those front and center. What Yantzer calls the company’s “central nervous system” was made into a creative lobby feature, visible behind a glass curtain and the receptionist desk.

It’s a touch that Alvine said gets at the overall goal: “We tried to create a living laboratory that didn’t feel like a laboratory.”

Reflecting on a fork in the road three years ago, he said the company’s leaders couldn’t know if they made the right decision to build and move. Today, Alvine said, he can appreciate the “refreshed, renewed community presence that all of this has brought.”

He believes the No. 1 payoff has been a boost to morale.

“It’s like Christmas morning,” he said. “More than one person has said, ‘We’re really going to have to perform to the new level of our office now.’ It’s fun to hear those things.”

Reporter - Money

Cindy covers housing and commercial real estate for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

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