The Benson area’s main commercial drag and surrounding streets are seeing a growth spurt as more housing, offices and retailers are moving to the eclectic neighborhood.

“We’re seeing another wave of new development and investment,” said City Councilman Pete Festersen, who represents the community that dates back to 1887, when Erastus Benson bought and platted the land.

As with many older pockets of town, Benson had lost business and residential zest to the metro area’s suburbs before resurging about a decade ago. Festersen points to public infrastructure investment and formation of a business and improvement district as helping to usher in hip music, cool venues and restaurants.

Professional offices started to multiply and increase daytime traffic. The housing market and apartments are “gaining traction,” Festersen said. “Lots of people are moving there and want to live there.”

Here are some projects that continue the evolution:

  • An almost $1.7 million redevelopment at 6121 Maple St. will transform a vacant one-story building into event space. A soon-to-be-built second floor will be a restaurant and bar open to the public. An outdoor patio is planned, too. Developer Pilar LLC, buoyed by $241,000 in tax-increment financing, anticipates a spring 2020 opening.
  • Construction could start in December on what developer Aaron Moser of Sage Capital Real Estate calls Benson’s new “west gateway.” The $14 million, 97-apartment building at 6152 Military Ave. is dubbed The Mill, a nod to the site’s past as a flour mill. The five-story structure with first-floor parking awaits City Council approval for about $2 million in TIF.
  • A stand-alone building at 6767 Maple St. has undergone a roughly $400,000 transformation into a headhunter agency called Cordova. The business, working with TACKarchitects, opened there in September. Owner Gabe Romero expects to employ up to 14 people in the office, which finds executives and sales and tech professionals for employers.
  • In a former guitar store at 6061 Maple St., a new wine retail spot serving small food dishes is scheduled to open by November. Owners Rob Rutar and David Yoshitomo are calling their place ElevenEleven Wine Sellers. Rutar said that the project was a total renovation of the space and that the décor will honor the history of the building and of Benson.
  • A secondhand store at 5920 Maple St. is being rehabilitated for use as office and retail space. Developers Adam Watson and Steve and Seth Elken bought the 6,000-square-foot building that until June housed a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. Watson said he will know better the investment amount after he secures up to two tenants.
  • Four structures — all a century old and spanning a total of about 90,000 square feet — are about to go on the market, opening up for development what once was St. James Orphanage at 60th Street and Military Avenue.

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The Archdiocese of Omaha is selling the property known today as the Sheehan Center for a price still to be determined, Deacon Tim McNeil said.

In November, offices and services offered at the campus will move to 111th and Blondo Streets.

Festersen said he hopes that talks with the archdiocese and area residents will create a new vision for the campus. “It is large and represents a new opportunity,” he said.

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