With all the tiny apartments popping up around urban Omaha, it was a shift to visit the newly renovated West Farnam.
Rental dwellings in this historic midtown building span 1,800 square feet. They come with a garage, sun room, concierge trash and recycling service, two bedrooms, two bathrooms.
(For perspective, the soon-to-open Freiden we wrote about earlier this month will offer units as small as 317 square feet; Flats on Howard has some less than 400 square feet; Blackstone Station studio sizes are about 500 square feet.)
Except for the only single-bedroom unit in the basement, monthly rent at West Farnam is about $2,500.
While the West Farnam might be an outlier among newer apartment projects in Omaha’s core, you might say it has in a way returned to its roots.
Built in 1912, the brick building at 3817 Dewey Ave. was reported to be the first luxury apartment house erected in Omaha’s Gold Coast area.
When The World-Herald last reported on the West Farnam in mid-2017, we rode on an elevator that its new owner said was the first in any Omaha residential building.
The place featured a south lawn where aristocrats of earlier eras mingled, and an interior winding stairwell once used by servants.
Since reopening a few months ago, three of the nine units have been filled, said Larry Jensen of Milestone Development, which led the nearly $3 million renovation.
“We knew it was going to take time to lease,” Jensen said. “It is a niche property.”
A few blocks away, Jensen was involved in recent construction of a 24-unit building on the site of the old Metz mansion that caught fire then was razed. Rent at that Dewey 3700 ranges from about $1,000 to $1,500.
Among the burst of other recently-arrived or rehabbed apartments in the area is the six-level Blackstone Corner, a project of Greenslate and Clarity developers that soon will bring about 110 apartments to 36th and Farnam Streets.
Jensen said completion of the West Farnam was delayed in part by challenges with the signature Otis elevator. He said officials balked at its age but approved its use after safety inspections.
Those secret stairways? They were removed, as architects said they posed a fire hazard. But other interesting nooks and crannies remain throughout the 15,000-square-foot building. (The former maid quarters off of kitchen areas is a good spot for a home office.)
Terry Schamp, a native Omahan who returned after 18 years away, was one of the first to move into the revamped West Farnam, lured by its vintage look and proximity to cultural and entertainment hubs.
Schamp, 55, at first settled in an Old Market loft, but is adding a significant other to the household (both he and she work remotely) and wanted more room.
“It’s still close to the Old Market and midtown,” he said. “But it was much quieter and a has lot more space.”
Apparently not everyone is pleased with the modernized West Farnam version. On the sidewalk someone wrote in white chalk: What does gentrification look like?
To that, Jensen said rent has increased (from roughly $750 in the past, he said) but so has the quality of the property and living units. He views that as a plus for the surrounding neighborhood, and expects the West Farnam now to last another century.