grace university administration building

Urban Village Development closed Friday on the sale of Grace University's former administration building, at 1311 S. Ninth St.

Apartments, 167 of them, are set to go into the former Grace University administration and dorm structure south of downtown Omaha.

Urban Village Development, which has built or converted numerous other structures around town, finalized its purchase of the property Friday.

The site sold for about $1.25 million. It had been on the market earlier for $3.5 million, after Grace announced plans to leave its campus of 75 years.

Formerly St. Catherine Hospital, the structure at 1311 S. Ninth St. spans nearly 3 acres and contains 142,000 square feet, including the basement.

Chad Hansen, senior vice president of CBRE/Mega Commercial Real Estate, represents Grace and said the university has a couple of small off-site properties still in the process of being sold. But he said the sale of the administration and dorm complex means that all parts of the campus that operated as a university now are sold.

Renovation work is to begin soon on what will be a $16 million apartment project, said Jerry Reimer of Urban Village.

He said his company plans to do a complete renovation of the complex to prepare it for market-rate housing tailored for professionals. The near-downtown property is Urban Village’s first multifamily venture in the Little Italy neighborhood.

Indeed, Reimer said, the project marks the first major rehab venture that Urban Village has undertaken in about five years.

The plan calls for converting the building into efficiency units and one-bedroom units that would rent for upward of $800.

Reimer said Urban Village — known for renovating many longtime dilapidated structures along Park Avenue west of downtown — more recently had turned to new construction, and to the suburbs.

Reimer said the company had backed away from rehabilitation projects due to the risk, energy and zoning complexities it took to pull them off.

So the Little Italy project also is significant for Urban Village in that “we’re putting our toe back in the water for a rehab,” Reimer said.

He said the company wanted to support Grace and also is attracted to the history of the neighborhood and the concrete floors and solid structure of the former hospital.

Urban Village figured it would have cost about as much to knock down the complex and build from scratch as it will to renovate, Reimer said. But from a community level, he said, his management believes in the importance of saving old buildings.

The sale follows a series of meetings with neighbors, city officials and waivers related to transforming a hospital or university use to a neighborhood residential use.

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