Three Susie Buffett-led organizations are moving from midtown Omaha’s Kiewit Plaza — home also to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway — to a piece of the downtown riverfront campus.
Buffett said she and the staff are excited about their future digs in a former Conagra building, which offers more than twice the space they occupy in the headquarters building of Kiewit Corp.
“It was just perfect for us,” Buffett told The World-Herald on Monday. “It’s beautiful. That area is nice: on the water, lots of trees.”
Of course, the philanthropist and billionaire’s daughter conceded, there is a downside.
“I am sorry to be leaving my father,” she said, adding: “We’re trying to do the best job we can with his money and my mother’s money.”
The new home — about 60,000 square feet on two floors of 808 Conagra Drive — allows for future growth of the Sherwood Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (named after Susie’s late mother) and the Buffett Early Childhood Fund.
The collective team of about 60 employees is expected to relocate at year’s end.
In the meantime, architectural design and renovations will tailor the new space to the foundations’ needs, said CBRE/Mega President Bennett Ginsberg, who represented Susie Buffett in the search. Kiewit spokesman Bob Kula said vacant space in Kiewit Plaza is typically filled from within the company.
Buffett said she remains fond of Kiewit Plaza, 3555 Farnam St., where the entities she heads have been based since 1989, when they moved out of someone’s basement. “We love Kiewit.”
Space, however, became cramped, and Buffett expects further growth. “We don’t want to move again.”
Now, instead of having the Oracle of Omaha as a neighbor, Sherwood and the sister groups will work alongside the Conagra Brands workforce left on the downtown campus after Conagra moved its corporate flag to Chicago.
Chris Kircher, Conagra spokesman, said the company was thrilled. Conagra will be the landlord of the space Buffett is leasing.
“I speak on behalf of all 1,200 employees down there. We are excited to have them.”
Perhaps most widely known of the three entities, the Sherwood Foundation, according to its website, promotes social justice initiatives that enhance the quality of life in Nebraska. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation funds student scholarships, teacher awards and a wide range of social causes, and the Buffett Early Childhood Fund aims to level the playing field for all children.
The Sherwood Foundation received money from the estate of Susie Buffett’s mother, and each year her father donates Berkshire stock to the family foundations. Last year he donated $218 million to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and $153 million each to foundations run by his children.
With Susie Buffett as chairwoman, the three foundations are to occupy two floors of the structure known as Building 5, one of two buildings vacated by Conagra last year as it downsized its downtown workforce.
Steve Sheppard of CBRE/Mega and P.J.Morgan of PJ Morgan Real Estate worked on behalf of Conagra to market the pair of buildings on the northern end of the campus.
Together, the two buildings have more than 200,000 square feet of office space near the Old Market and the Heartland of America Park. They are connected by a tunnel system to three other main office buildings on the 30-acre, low-rise campus, built for Conagra in 1989.
The deal with Susie Buffett was cinched after she had looked west and in midtown, Ginsberg said. He said the sprawling Conagra campus, its proximity to the airport and on-site parking were pluses.
Tour activity by potential tenants remains high for other parts of the Conagra property still up for lease, Morgan said. He said he’s talking to a different tenant about renting a smaller chunk of space in Building 5.
He and Sheppard expect the Buffett lease to spark more interest in the site.
“We think this is a boost for downtown Omaha,” Sheppard said.