You don’t have to go far in Omaha’s urban core before running into a NuStyle residential project — then another, and another.
In just the past six years, the real estate development company has carved out more than 2,000 apartments from eight aging structures spanning 2.5 million square feet within a few miles of the Missouri River.
Some projects stand out for sheer size. Think hulky midtown hospital transformed to the largest single apartment structure in the state.
Others put NuStyle in uncharted territory. Think dead, fragmented power plant reignited as trendy riverfront apartments.
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But the family-owned, Woodbine, Iowa-based company has been rehabbing, converting and building in the Omaha area for 31 years — and has tackled dozens of big apartment projects. Many involve multiple buildings. Many are historic. That’s on top of the numerous affordable dwellings it built or renovated in older neighborhoods.
With the residential market key to economic growth, especially in the downtown area, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce has recognized NuStyle for “extraordinary impact” on the city and its landscape.
David Brown, chamber president, presented the Summit Award to NuStyle owners Todd and Mary Heistand during the annual Commercial Real Estate Summit that drew nearly 1,000 people to the CHI Health Center on Friday.
The past two recipients, chosen by chamber managers, were Kiewit Corp. and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Brown said this year’s selection committee looked at the role housing played in the city, and sought to identify pacesetters.
“It was like a slam dunk,” he said of NuStyle.
The Heistands, he said, have created homes for thousands of Omahans and have taken on projects others steered clear of.
He pointed to the developer’s 2013 conversion of the Northern Natural Tower at 22nd and Dodge Streets. Before turning into the 194-apartment Highline, it had been Nebraska’s largest vacant office building, and had stood empty a decade.
Todd Heistand, at the time, said he envisioned the new housing creating a strong link between Mutual of Omaha’s Midtown Crossing development and bustling sections of downtown to the east.
“That whole area is just kind of a no-man’s zone right now,” Heistand said in a 2011 interview. “We figured, let’s try to make that area something cool, get some excitement going.”
The $26 million Highline led to construction of 112 more apartments on an adjacent parking lot. NuStyle soon turned two other office high-rises to the east into trendy apartments such as the Wire and the Slate.
Apartments have continued to rise in the downtown and midtown areas, as numerous other developers have jumped in not only with housing but offices, hotels and entertainment venues.
Heistand, now 59, launched the development company in 1988 with his sister, Tammy Barrett, who eventually left to focus on raising her family in Woodbine. Heistand’s high school sweetheart and wife, Mary, became co-owner. The Heistands still live in Woodbine, and have an office in Omaha.
NuStyle over the past three decades has shifted focus from renovating and constructing affordable houses in South and north Omaha to repurposing historic office structures and warehouses into downtown and midtown market-rate apartments.
Mary Heistand has said that rescuing pieces of history is a driving force behind their work.
Among NuStyle projects, for instance, was the Livestock Exchange Building. The South Omaha landmark was rehabilitated in 2004 into 102 affordable apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. Said Todd Heistand, “We really didn’t make any money, but it was such a cool building and it had to be preserved and done right.”
The Heistands have four adult kids and 16 grandchildren.
The work continues with another generation. Daughter Mindy Crook helped start Arch Icon Development, which also rehabilitates urban historic properties, including the Flats on Howard neighborhood on the western fringe of downtown Omaha.