West Omaha is in store for a new downtown of sorts.
As planned, the nearly 500 acres of undeveloped land west of historic Boys Town would showcase a food and dining plaza, a retail center and an entertainment hub for live bands and festivals.
The development also is to feature a lake, a pedestrian bridge over Pacific Street and 10 miles of walking and bike trails.
Within the 2.3 million square feet of planned commercial space is an office campus to be anchored by Berkshire Hathaway’s Applied Underwriters Inc.
And of about 2,000 homes slated to rise on the site, designs range from apartments to mansions with porches in front and garages out back.
When all is said and done — it’s estimated to take as long as 20 years to build out — the development is projected to have an assessed value of least $1.2 billion, lead developer Jay Noddle of Noddle Cos. told The World-Herald.
Neighbors such as the Rev. Tom Bauwens of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church are thrilled.
“The powerful growth that is going to be here, the shops, the homes, the vitalization of this area of Omaha — this is just going to go through the roof with people’s excitement,” said Bauwens, whose parish will acquire 15 acres of the farmland for its own expansion.
A Boys Town spokesman said it, too, is happy with the way the land is being developed.
“We are excited that we have a local buyer and developer to steward this property,” the spokesman said. “Incorporating the farm into the plans is a nice gesture.”
Yet to be named, the development area for now is referred to as West Farm/South Farm, and it encompasses former Boys Town land and the former DeMarco farm near 144th Street and West Dodge Road.
The Boys Town portion stretches six blocks along West Dodge from 144th to 150th Streets and runs south to Pacific Street. Millard North High School will remain on the corner of 144th and Pacific Streets.
The DeMarco land, on the other side of Pacific, runs still farther south to about Shirley Street.
The purchase of the two farm areas is to become final next year, but Noddle said he and a consulting team that includes HDR, Urban Design Associates, HR&A and Lamp Rynearson & Associates have been hammering out details and renderings. He outlined details of a 51-page plan during an interview Tuesday.
Over the past few months, Noddle said, he met with neighbors including leaders of St. Wenceslaus and Millard North, as their needs also had to be accommodated.
St. Wenceslaus, for instance, plans to build a new church that seats 1,400 people and will transform its existing 900-seat church to a hall. Bauwens said he expects that half of the new residents of the West Farm/South Farm project could be potential parishioners.
Millard North is to benefit as well, Noddle said, from traffic flow reconfigurations and access improvements.
Omaha Planning Board members are to review some related platting and zoning matters as early as this week. If all goes as planned, grading could begin next spring, followed by landscape buffers and trails.
The first buildings to rise will be those of Applied Underwriters. Construction on the company’s 55-acre campus — the anchor of the development area’s nearly 1.4 million square feet of office space — is scheduled to begin next summer and be completed in late 2019.
Noddle called the overall undertaking unprecedented locally because of its green, largely blank slate and prime spot already surrounded by infrastructure.
“There are few opportunities, situations like this anywhere in America,” he said.
Conceptually, Noddle said, the area is to be a walkable community, where residents of new housing can stroll to dining, shopping, entertainment and work sites.
Among featured elements, according to the Noddle-led plan:
» Residential neighborhoods (there will be a few) are to be different in that they are based on Omaha’s most walkable neighborhoods from the early 20th century. Houses are to be modeled after Tudor, Craftsman and Colonial styles. Streets are not to be lined with garage doors; garages are to be alley-loaded and streets instead are to be lined with porches and gardens.
» Envisioned in the 2.3 million square feet of commercial space is nearly 1.4 million square feet of offices, 500,000 square feet of retailers, a 300-room hotel, 1,500 apartments, 140 town houses and 440 single-family houses.
» About one-third of the land is to be open, including green buffers, parkland and public squares.
» The Gateway park is to have an amphitheater, lake and dining district. A focal point is to be a cluster of buildings reminiscent of or actually moved from the old Boys Town farm and converted into shops and restaurants. (Noddle said those salvage options are being studied.) The idea is to honor the heritage of the Boys Town farm.
» The Village Square is to be the center for community events such as live performances and farmers markets.
» A trail network is to offer running, walking and biking routes 14 feet wide. Said Noddle: “We can do a 10K without even having to leave the property.”
» A boulevard is to run parallel to 144th Street and through the entire development — serving residents and shoppers as well as motorists seeking an alternative to 144th Street.
Noddle said that spine would connect with an expanded interchange at 150th and West Dodge, extend south to intersect with Pacific Street just west of Millard North, then continue southward before bending around to the east to intersect with 144th Street at the southeast corner of the property.
Although the area is to have multiple access points, Noddle said it is intended also to “be its own place — its own big mixed-use community.”
The project is to be developed as a sanitary-improvement district, or SID, and does not plan to seek tax-increment financing, Noddle said.
He said he is confident that it will lure new-to-the-area retailers and various styles of housing and offices. Other developers are to come on board, Noddle said, to take on pieces such as apartments and home-building.
Noddle said he is “pinching himself,” and excited to help bring “an urban core to suburban west Omaha.”
“This is kind of the town center of west Omaha,” he said. “It really will be a hub of commerce in the western half of the city.”