A two-block tract in north downtown Omaha is to be transformed into a $50 million campus featuring a hotel, apartments, shops and a Kiewit international training facility.

Currently a surface parking lot known as “The Yard,” the site being redeveloped by NewStreet Properties and Noddle Cos. is bounded by 14th, 15th, Cuming and Mike Fahey Streets.

Developers think the three-building project brings the biggest private investment in recent memory into the area around TD Ameritrade Park, where momentum has been slowly ramping up since the recession.

It’s a stroll away from other planned developments revving up the broader downtown area, including the $205 million Capitol District project, which recently started construction on the hotel portion of the multiple-use complex. The adjacent HDR global engineering and architectural headquarters is to be finished by 2019.

Across the Missouri on the Council Bluffs side is the planned River’s Edge mixed-use project, which also is spearheaded by Noddle.

“This will inject a lot of life into north downtown,” Michael Alley said of The Yard redevelopment to be built across Cuming Street from his architectural firm.

He said incoming residents, visitors and students will feed surrounding restaurants and commercial businesses — “exactly what we were hoping for to create a lively and active neighborhood.”

Anchoring the redevelopment site is Kiewit Corp.’s education, innovation and leadership facility, a two-story building that will span nearly 63,000 square feet and train more than 3,000 salaried employees a year coming from throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.

Slated to break ground this fall, the training center will be the “cornerstone” of Kiewit’s educational programming, said Tom Janssen, director of external affairs for the construction, mining and engineering company that last year had revenue of $10.4 billion. Omaha was selected over other Kiewit-heavy sites such as Dallas and Kansas City, and after developer Noddle had eyed more than a dozen other contender sites.

“This is a vibrant community, and it’s an investment in our home since 1884,” Janssen said.

The training center will replace about 42,000 square feet of leased space in the downtown Peter Kiewit conference center, where the company’s educational services now are housed. Throughout the Omaha area, Kiewit employs more than 1,700 people and occupies 410,000 square feet, including its corporate headquarters at 36th and Farnam Streets.

Janssen said Kiewit spends more than $80 million a year on training for salaried employees, six times the industry average. Ongoing education ranging from structural steel to communication courses is a company value instilled by founders, he said. “This new facility reinforces our sustained commitment to develop our employees and advance our company.”

Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Cos., called the Kiewit facility a “big win” for Omaha and said the campus is the largest private collaboration for north downtown that he can recall.

“It’s going to move the needle in this part of the city,” said Noddle, whose past projects include central Omaha’s Aksarben Village and the Gallup riverfront campus.

Along the northern edge of The Yard redevelopment site will be the five-story residential building tentatively called The Yard apartments. The 110 units will range from studios leasing for $700 to two-bedroom units costing about $1,500 a month, said Jerry Banks of NewStreet, the developer for the apartments and hotel.

About 6,000 square feet of space for retail shops and services will be on the ground level of the apartment structure.

Among other highlights of that building is a deck atop the indoor parking garage that will face the downtown skyline and feature a cybercafe and other amenities. An exterior staircase will lead up to the deck for visitors to approach special activities.

Parking garage doors will open up for “enhanced street activity,” and so that the garage can be used for additional event space. It’s a touch that has livened up similar projects in cities like Austin, Texas, said Alley, whose firm, Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, is designing the apartment building.

“Some of the thinking that went into it was to create a lively street presence all the way around the building,” Alley said. “It will really be a wonderful asset for the whole downtown.”

Fronting 14th Street will be a five-story national brand hotel with about 125 rooms. NewStreet is interviewing hoteliers to determine the most fitting design and brand. Banks expects the limited-service hotel to include a lounge and exercise room.

All three components on the four-acre site are expected to be completed by spring 2017.

Developers said they’ll probably seek tax-increment financing from the city, which has a history with the property.

NewStreet acquired the two blocks in 2005, prior to the formal announcement that the College World Series would relocate to a new ballpark at 12th and Cuming Streets, Banks said. Five years later, the firm’s request for a permit allowing beer sales on the property exposed a rift in the community, as opponents expressed concern that NewStreet would never fully develop the site because of the lucrative lure of CWS beer sales.

Ultimately, NewStreet created the parking lot and doesn’t sell alcohol directly, but it does lease tent space to private event hosts that can offer it to their guests.

Banks said then, and now, that his company’s intent was always that the 400-stall parking lot and pop-up tents would be a temporary “placeholder” until the economy improved and development on the property made sense.

“That day has come,” he said.

The Yard apartments will become part of the 1,900 units NewStreet already has in the metro area, Banks said. Founded in 1992, the Omaha-based real estate investment and development company owns and operates more than 3.75 million square feet of apartments and industrial, office and retail properties nationwide.

Banks, partner and portfolio director, said a market analysis by a Chicago firm showed strong demand for urban living. He expects future development by Creighton University to only increase that demand, and he foresees The Yard activities adding to a “24-hour zone feel” in the area.

He and Noddle called the Kiewit training facility a great fit for north downtown — which is trying to identify as an arts and innovation district.

Steve Jensen, former city planning director, said The Yard redevelopment builds on a recent development surge following a recession-induced slowdown.

He expects momentum to continue because north downtown is the focal point of a Daniel Rose Fellowship program that has Jensen, Mayor Jean Stothert and others exploring the best growth strategies.

“It is the new Omaha, no doubt,” Noddle said. “It’s going to continue to develop.”

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