A growing Omaha-based Baxter Auto Group is revving up with a new corporate headquarters to be built northwest of 168th Street and West Dodge Road, near three dealership structures the company currently has under construction.
The four-story home base, to be finished in mid-2019, will unify marketing, technology, human resources and other support team members now scattered in the auto dealership’s multiple stores.
“We’re in three states and 20 locations representing 15 brands,” said co-owner Angie Quinn. “By putting together our support staff, we become more efficient and we can serve not only our team better, but our customers better. It’s an exciting time for us.”
Quinn and her brother, Mickey Anderson, run the family-owned, homegrown business. They plan to lease half of the 86,500-square-foot office building set to rise at West Dodge Pointe, a 55-acre site north of Village Pointe shopping center.
Expected to cost up to $20 million, the facility designed by Carlson West Povondra is to be owned and managed by developer White Lotus Group. It will rise on a lot close to the West Dodge corridor, near 173rd Street. About 120 Baxter people will be based there. There would be room for Baxter expansion, or another tenant.
Baxter’s move follows a growth streak for the auto dealership that employs 1,900 (1,400 of them in Nebraska) and that sold about 40,000 vehicles companywide last year. Quinn said that count is up from the 700 employees, 11 stores and 18,000 new and used vehicle sales a decade ago.
From stores in the Omaha area, Lincoln, Kansas City and Colorado Springs, Baxter offers 15 brands including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Toyota, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Ram, Jeep, Dodge, Ford, Honda and Subaru. The dealership group also has three body and repair shops.
Among projects in its pipeline are two new dealership sites on ground at Interstate 80 and Highway 370 in Sarpy County (Baxter Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Fiat in La Vista will move to that new area in 2020, along with Baxter Ford South that now is near I-80 and 144th Street).
A Subaru store will then move to the La Vista site to be remodeled near 126th and Harrison Streets. A brand new Kia of Omaha is expected to break ground this summer near 180th and West Dodge. A trio of dealerships now under construction at West Dodge Pointe will replace franchises now located near Westroads Mall (where a new Topgolf venue is planned).
Already in recent years, the company elevated its profile via a series of actions including buying naming rights to the new University of Nebraska at Omaha arena near 67th and Center Streets.
Earlier that year, Baxter acquired the Stan Olsen family dealerships and renamed three to make them one with the Baxter banner.
Siblings Quinn and Anderson took over the Baxter business after their father, Talton “Tal” Anderson, died in 2009. Tal Anderson’s start in auto sales dated back to 1957 when he pumped gas part time at Johnny Baxter’s car dealership and gas station. By Baxter’s retirement in 1984, Anderson had owned 49 percent of the business; he contracted to purchase the remaining stake, kept the Baxter name and began expanding.
While the company will lease its future corporate offices in West Dodge Pointe, it bought from White Lotus the 26 contiguous acres on which it now is building the Audi, Volkswagen and Subaru dealerships. Each is about 40,000 square feet. Two are to open later this year and the third the following spring.
The three reflect a more modern design, with building fronts stretching to the sidewalk of Burt Street, the east-west road that runs through West Dodge Pointe. Inventory will be parked in the back, with pedestrians seeing car showrooms through the glass fronts. It’s window-shopping of sorts, said Quinn.
“You’ll look inside the glass and see the cars — which is dramatically different than the usual dealership,” she said.
White Lotus chief executive Arun Agarwal said the pedestrian-friendly, “urban” design of the dealership row fits well with his plan to create more high-end office space on the nearby 14 acres south of Burt Street, on the land most visible to motorists traveling the Dodge corridor.
There, already, is the 45,000-square-foot building built four years ago and anchored by Nebraska Realty.
Agarwal bought the roughly 55 acres that stretch west from 168th to about 174th about a decade ago, envisioning early on a different mix of uses that included a hotel, residential apartments, entertainment and service retailers. Challenges such as street alignment and access from 168th to the site persisted. He sold the northern chunk to Baxter for the three new dealership structures.
Baxter already had a presence at the sprawling auto plaza just west of West Dodge Pointe near 180th.
In addition to being within eyeshot of its three under-construction dealerships, Baxter’s future headquarters will be within a five- or ten-minute drive from several other stores, Quinn said.
Meanwhile, just south of West Dodge Pointe, Investor Realty’s Tim Kerrigan recently helped broker a sale of 25 acres to a group with plans to build about 120 town houses.
Kerrigan, who also represented Baxter, said the surrounding real estate benefits especially from proximity to the busy Dodge corridor. An area just west of the Village Pointe shopping center also has been filling out with commercial ventures and hotels.
The allure has increased also as more businesses and families have moved farther west, Agarwal said, today making the West Dodge Pointe area more of an “infill” site.
A project to widen 168th Street from two lanes to four between West Dodge and West Maple also is underway.
Baxter’s Mickey Anderson said his company is eager to take its next move and called the new office headquarters location ideal. In a company publication, he recalled how doctors told his family in 2008 that his dad had about a year to live.
“They had it right,” the younger Anderson said. “But he told us, as the economy tanked in 2008, we were either heading toward financial Armageddon or a ripe, acquisition-rich period. Luckily, we found ourselves in the latter, so we went into action.”