It would contain two towers — stretching up to 30 stories at the highest point.
Retail bays would wrap around the street level of the office structure, but the 11th-floor “sky patio and lobby” is expected to be the bigger envy of the neighborhood — as restaurants, bars, a fitness center and other fun stuff spill onto outside decks overlooking a reinvigorated downtown.
If all goes as hoped, the estimated $200 million high-rise at 1416 Dodge St. would also fill a cavity that has long languished in Omaha’s core.
Developer Jason Lanoha, whose company bought the full city block in 2014, believes that the time is ripe for such a signature office building to rise on the land once occupied by Union Pacific Railroad, which moved its headquarters across the street in 2004.
He’s recharged efforts to attract an anchor employer to the spot bounded by 14th, 15th and Dodge Streets and Capitol Avenue. Construction, to be sure, depends on one or more employers coming forth with a need for a new or expanded home. But he said he’s had nibbles and believes that market demand is sufficient for what would be one of the three tallest office structures in the area.
“From a visibility standpoint, this is the entrance to Omaha,” Lanoha said. “If you want to attract young talent, here you go.”
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The project would fulfill an unofficial commitment to city officials to erect a tall structure on the site that enhances the city’s skyline. Lanoha said that over the years, his company has declined multiple opportunities that didn’t jibe with that goal.
“While this is a challenge given Omaha’s market size, and the number of single users that can occupy a large structure is rare, we feel this concept gives us the best opportunity given the market dynamics to achieve our goals, and those of the city,” he said.
Kevin Andersen, an economic development aide to Mayor Jean Stothert, said it is key that downtown gain a tall structure capable of bringing many more jobs to the central business district.
“The downtown master plan calls for towers to support the densities envisioned for downtown Omaha,” he said. “We are just as encouraged by the proposed uses as we are the proposal’s contribution to the skyline.”
Architectural images have been drawn up, showcasing an almost 700,000-square-foot office complex on top of nine floors of parking, though details could change. Full-on marketing to lease space at the facility will begin in the next few days.
The current mix of proposed uses — corporate offices, hotel rooms, retail and entertainment — differs from the last major attempt at redeveloping the site. Back in 2005, a Kansas-based company proposed a 32-story project filled with residential condos, offices and a hotel. That WallStreet Tower never got off the ground, though demolition of the former railroad headquarters wrapped up in 2008.
After Lanoha bought the vacant property, he floated a plan that featured a glass structure 10 to 25 stories high that would be heavy on offices but include retail space and condos.
In his new vision, housing is deliberately excluded, as Lanoha doubts that Omahans would pay the high rent required in such an expensive project.
What makes him confident now, given the long lull at 1416 Dodge? A top reason is an “offset cores” design that Lanoha said is new to Omaha and offers more flexibility and efficient use of space.
Typically, he said, a building core (think elevators and other mechanical necessities) runs up the center of a structure. In this design, the core is offset toward the outer edge, allowing people to step off the elevator into a “wider, open, flexible space,” Lanoha said.
Additionally, he said, the plan allows for building the project’s 27-story tower and 30-story tower in two pieces over time, which would not put all the office space on the market at once.
Andersen, too, said the phasing option makes the plan more realistic. He and Lanoha said the business climate has also improved.
Lanoha aims to offer amenities that are enticing to the modern workforce. The interior of the 11th floor would be filled with amenities including retailers offering food and beverages. Its outside would be a place where people could socialize or set up an iPad on patio furniture.
“As the name of the game is attracting and retaining a talented workforce, we believe it will be well-received by the end users,” Lanoha said.
Touting potential exposure, he said the towers would be noticeable to national audiences during the College World Series and events at the CHI Health Center, as well as to travelers entering the city from Eppley Airfield.
“We believe the health of a city starts with its downtown, and it is important for us to add to the skyline,” Lanoha said.