The City of La Vista is about to get a heart.

A $175 million-plus “City Centre” project is to bring apartments, restaurants, retailers, offices and a grocer to the 84th Street corridor that was left with a gaping commercial hole when Walmart sparked an exodus a decade ago.

Led by developer City Ventures, the largely private 30-acre initiative is to rise on the once-booming Brentwood Crossing property in tandem with the first phase of a civic park long-envisioned on La Vista’s golf course.

The two pieces are to be linked by a proposed amphitheater and walking trail leading from the public park into the mixed-use campus.

Together the City Centre and Civic Center Park would form the downtown core that officials said this Sarpy County city never had.

“I don’t know if I’ve smiled this much in 10 years,” Mayor Doug Kindig said as he, other city leaders and the developer outlined the plan for The World-Herald on Friday.

Now with a population of about 18,000, La Vista was born as a bedroom community without an established downtown. For years, the mayor said, residents have pushed for an urban destination where they could gather and point to as the “heartbeat” of their city. That demand spiked after the departure of Walmart and a neighboring supermarket across the street.

While the city has worked to restore its portion of 84th Street — crafting plans and adopting a half-cent sales tax for corridor improvement — progress was stymied by little cooperation from the owner of Brentwood Crossing.

Billionaire E. Stanley Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams and Denver Nuggets, lives out of town and was difficult to reach, city officials said. (His wife is a niece of Walmart’s founder.) The city had even discussed seizing his blighted and largely vacant shopping area through eminent domain.

City Ventures was able to break through the logjam. Chris Erickson and Dan White said they had an inroad, have been talking for about 18 months with the Kroenke Group and have a contract to buy the mostly vacant shopping area. City Ventures declined to name the sale price until the deal officially closes.

Both Kindig and City Administrator Brenda Gunn said they have confidence that City Centre and the neighboring park will happen.

City approvals have yet to come. But, city officials said, revenue from the half-cent sales tax increase approved in 2014 is earmarked for corridor improvements, such as the park’s amphitheater and lake.

This year’s budget included funding for engineering work on the lake. And various plans have been assembled in preparation for this moment.

“We’re ready to go,” Gunn said.

She said the city-owned golf course is to close at the end of the season, Sept. 30, so grading can begin on the park’s transition into the City Centre project site.

Demolition of the vacant Walmart and smaller stores should begin this fall, Erickson said. He expects buildings to begin rising next spring.

Staying on the site will be Chili’s restaurant, the McDonald’s and Brentwood car wash. Erickson said a couple of smaller merchants recently left.

City Ventures was attracted to the La Vista site, Erickson said, largely because of its tie to the public recreational area next door.

“There’s really not an environment quite like that — that connects to a lake.”

When complete, the Civic Center Park is to span 32 acres. That’s long-term. The first phase, at a cost of about $18 million, includes the enlarged lake, amphitheater and trails that will lead into City Centre, Gunn said. She expects the two project areas to blur together with a seamless transition.

To help pay for the City Centre, developer City Ventures expects to request up to $25 million in public tax-increment financing.

La Vista officials say the city also would fund public infrastructure costs such as roads and parking areas.

Tenants have yet to be identified. Erickson and White said they will begin marketing the property and assembling a team of architects. EDSA urban design firm and Olsson Associates are partners.

While in early design stages, the developer’s plan calls for 350 apartments, 100,000 square feet of lofted office space (above retail) and more than 200,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, dining and entertainment space.

The developer will seek a boutique grocer and a hotel, which could push the total project price tag beyond $200 million.

Between 15 and 20 buildings of various sizes and heights likely will sprout, Erickson said.

The site also includes small green areas and space for a “signature” stand-alone office site overlooking the lake. Erickson and White hope that perch will attract an employer looking for a live-work-play campus.

They say they’re assured by the investment La Vista has made to restore the corridor.

“It’s unbelievably well-located,” Erickson said. “We’re excited to be the group that takes the next step to lead its rebirth through our private investments.”

Other recent City Ventures projects include the Corvina apartments in downtown Omaha and a mixed-use apartment and commercial project under construction in Benson.

John Dewhurst, the project’s retail leasing agent, noted City Centre’s proximity to established neighborhoods and busy Harrison Street and Giles Road. Yet, he said, activity now is lacking.

He adds: “There is a need for a community destination space with vibrant retail in the center of the metropolitan area.”

What sold Kindig, the mayor, was the project’s proposed variety of office, housing, retail and entertainment, he said. He expects the mix, on top of park attractions, to draw many people and carve a lengthy life for the 84th Street corridor.

“Eighty-fourth Street has been, and probably always will be, the heart of our city,” he said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1224, cindy.gonzalez@owh.com

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Long wait for new park set to end in the fall

By Hailey Konnath / World-Herald staff writer

The proposed commercial and residential project at the site of La Vistas’s old Walmart pushed forward city plans for an elaborate park that had been waiting in the wings for years.

La Vista city leaders say they will begin to build the Civic Center Park at the current site of La Vista Falls Golf Course on 84th Street this fall.

“The city is really, really excited about it,” Assistant City Administrator Rita Ramirez said Friday.

The planned Civic Center Park will be built in several phases over many years but ultimately could cost up to $42 million, according to the city’s 89-page master plan for the park. Its first phase will include an amphitheater, expanded lake, walking trails and an underpass under 84th Street.

The park will be funded by revenue from a La Vista half-cent sales tax, which has collected $2.8 million since it began in October 2014. That money is earmarked to pay for redevelopment on 84th Street.

Ramirez said she can’t guarantee that those sales tax funds will be the only money used on the project, but it’ll be “a big chunk.”

The golf course will close Sept. 30, and grading work for the park and buildings will begin then, Ramirez said.

The park and an 84th Street revitalization have been under discussion for years. The park’s master plan dates to 2013, said Mitch Beaumont, La Vista’s spokesman.

The City Council in the past disagreed on what part of the revitalization should be prioritized: the park or the collection of shops, restaurants and apartments.

“It’s always been the chicken or the egg,” Ramirez said.

Now that the private development is a go, the city plans to go ahead with its first phase on the park, which is projected to cost $18 million and will center on the part of the park that intersects with the development.

A lake will be expanded, trails will go in and an amphitheater area will be built, Ramirez said. The city also hopes to close its pool — which is across 84th Street from the planned development — and replace it with parking. It would build an underpass beneath 84th Street to connect the parking with the new development.

That part of the plan depends on when the proposed $125 million Nebraska Multisport Complex opens an outdoor pool, which will be used as a replacement for La Vista’s city pool.

The entire park at the old golf course site was designed as a long-term plan with phases and components designed to be adaptable, she said.

Future phases could include a boathouse and sculpture garden, shelters and playgrounds, amenities for La Vista Days, a pavilion and parking lot. But those plans could change as the city’s needs change, Ramirez said.

The master plan says the phases could cost anywhere from $600,000 to $7.5 million a piece.

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