Loft apartments and rehabbed commercial bays are poised to pop up along Omaha’s historic Auto Row — a stretch once bustling with showrooms of Studebakers, Hudsons and other classic cars.

Behind a venture to repurpose two buildings, both over a century old at 2570 and 2566 Farnam St., is a pair of local development companies that have been reviving the Blackstone District farther west on the same corridor.

GreenSlate and Clarity developers say their $7.6 million project would replace what most recently had been a printing press operation with trendy housing, retail and office space that would attract more activity and pedestrians to the area.

It would fuel a slow momentum that area merchants and residents have been trying to stoke in long-neglected pockets between downtown and midtown. Earlier this year, a neighborhood association seeking to bring more attention and business to the area bounded by Dodge, Leavenworth, 20th and 28th Streets rebranded the turf as the Quarters.

Among recent progress is the new $10 million Kountze Commons building at 26th and Douglas Streets. The long-vacant historic Hupmobile warehouse at 2523 Farnam St. also is undergoing renovation and, next door to the east, a five-story hotel is rising.

Sharing the block with the Clarity-GreenSlate project is All Makes, a neighborhood anchor that’s been in business 100 years but has modernized its showrooms and property.

While the historic Auto Row is about 10 blocks east of the Blackstone District — where Clarity and GreenSlate have focused most of their other redevelopment efforts — it’s along the same Farnam Street spine.

Tom McLeay of Clarity said he and his partners are interested in seeing that thoroughfare strengthened from the University of Nebraska Medical Center to downtown Omaha.

“It’s the conduit from the riverfront all the way to the med center,” McLeay said of Farnam. McLeay described the Auto Row area as an important connector piece.

As presented this week to the Omaha Planning Board, the GreenSlate-Clarity plan calls for preserving and converting the two Farnam Street buildings that in May were officially deemed historic by the city’s Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Under the plan, upper levels of the three-story brick and concrete building designed in 1912 by John McDonald for the Drummond Motor Co. would become 20 market-rate apartments. The dwellings would be loft-style with high ceilings, brick walls, wood floors and modern amenities.

Beneath the 2,500 square feet of street-level commercial space, the Drummond also would offer 11,250 square feet of commercial space and an 8,000-square-foot indoor parking garage with 17 spots.

Rent would run about $1,000 for the apartments, McLeay said.

The neighboring Firestone Tire Building, designed by John Latenser, was built in 1915 as a storefront to serve auto dealers including REO, Studebaker, Hupmobile and Cadillac. That structure is to become about 20,000 square feet of leasable retail and office space (three levels are aboveground and one is underground).

The design plan calls for installation of floor-to-ceiling storefront windows along Farnam Street to fit the historical look. Upper-level windows currently bricked over would be replaced. Flowerbeds would sprout in front.

City documents say the project furthers the city’s growth objectives by increasing density of the urban core and offering new options to a “blighted and neglected area.”

The Planning Board has recommended approval of $1 million in tax increment financing, based on an analysis that says that without TIF, the project would not be able to attract enough investor dollars to happen.

Developers also seek about $1 million in federal and state historic tax credits.

They aim to complete renovation in May 2019, and estimate the properties’ value to be $6.3 million upon completion.

Currently, both structures are vacant and were last used by Barnhart Press, which has relocated to the west.

“It’s preserving a piece of Omaha,” McLeay said of the project site. “That two-block stretch on both sides is almost the most intact historic little stretch in Omaha.”

Reporter - Money

Cindy covers housing and commercial real estate for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

(2) comments

Bill Kline

Glad to see that the buildings are being preserved and rehabbed, rather than being torn down. Great infill project, kudos to the developers.

P ASTA

Bravo, Outstanding!

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