The developer of Crossroads Mall has yet another plan for the site, with a new timeline, new drawings and a new signed agreement with the City of Omaha.
Developer Rod Yates said he plans to submit the first of a series of applications to the city on Monday.
“We’re all ready to make this happen,” Yates said.
But Mayor Jean Stothert noted that the project has seen several delays, and she cast doubt on whether it will move forward this month.
“The city’s put a lot of time and effort to get this rolling, and we’ve had agreements before that have come and went,” she said.
Stothert said she hasn’t seen any application, and that she is “anxious” to review it.
Yates’ latest plan calls for less retail space and more office space than earlier plans. He’s also scrapped a proposal to build a cinema, and instead wants to bring a health club and gym to the site.
As in previous versions of the plan, the Target would remain, as would the 2,200-stall garage on the property.
To help finance the project, the city would buy the garage for $7 million. It would have the option to sell the garage back to the developer after three years.
The project would also use several other financing tools that the two entities had previously agreed on: tax-increment financing, redevelopment bonds and a new occupation tax.
Crossroads Mall, the 50-plus-acre site northwest of the 72nd and Dodge Streets intersection, is seen as one of the most important spots in Omaha because of its size and central location.
Yates and property owner Frank Krejci, who are also behind the Nebraska Crossing Outlets mall in Gretna, have been working on a proposal to redevelop the aging Crossroads since 2011, and there have been several starts and stops along the way.
Most recently Stothert and Yates signed a nonbinding document in May that lays out a general agreement about financing. The first two phases of the project are estimated to cost $233 million. The agreement says city tax incentives will pay for $64 million of that.
On Wednesday, Stothert noted that several deadlines in the latest agreement have already passed, including deadlines for Yates to submit to the city proof of financing for the first phase of the project as well as TIF and platting applications.
She also cast doubt about whether Krejci is on board with the TIF application and noted that the application must come from the property owner.
“The thing of it is, Frank is the sole owner of the property, and he needs to sign off on all of this,” she said.
Krejci did not respond to a phone message Thursday.
Yates said “a lot of people” call Krejci and propose other plans for the site.
“What they’re really saying is ‘We’re ready to see something happen here. We’re tired of looking at this. If it’s not going to happen, maybe we should think about different ideas,’ ” Yates said. “That’s fair. It’s an asset in the community and people should have their thoughts on what to do there.”
At the same time, Yates said, the property was sold for $9.5 million at a public auction. “Everyone had a right to bid on it.”
For his part, Yates said he plans to submit the TIF application Monday. A formal development agreement and preliminary plat proposal would be submitted Aug. 7, he said, and both would come before the Omaha Planning Board in September.
Yates said demolition could start by the end of this year. Construction of the first phase of the project could be completed by the spring of 2019.
Yates said he understands the frustration from Omahans who are ready to see progress at the long-stagnant corner.
“We’re not kicking the can down the road,” Yates said.
In the end, Yates said, delaying the project will be to its benefit. Several retailers already have filed bankruptcy this year, and even more are closing stores and pulling back on expansion, facing fierce competition from online sellers.
Because of that, Yates has scaled back the retail portion of his plan. Five years ago he envisioned 800,000 square feet of retail space on the site. In the latest plan, that has shrunk to 350,000 square feet.
“The time it has taken to get it done has really served us well and we’ll have a better end product for the community,” Yates said.
Plans for the development also include a 20,000-square-foot health club and gym; 500,000 square feet of office space; more than 750,000 square feet of residential apartments; and at least one boutique hotel, Yates said. (The latest figures are slightly different from those in the May agreement with the city.)
The latest plan doesn’t include a library on the site, though the idea of a new main library at 72nd and Dodge has come up recently as the Library Board creates a new master plan. Earlier versions of Yates’ vision included a library on the site, and he said he’d be open to including a branch in the final version of the plan.
This is the second time Yates and Stothert have signed an agreement about financing.
The first was in 2013, and the agreement included the use of general obligation bonds, which must go to a vote of the people. The City Council initially approved a ballot initiative for the use of the bonds, but the city scrapped that plan when it became clear that it would be a hard sell to Omahans.
Since then, Yates and Stothert have engaged in on-and-off negotiations about the project.
The City Council would have the final say on the proposed incentive package.
If the project moves forward, Crossroads would likely be the second development in Omaha to pursue an occupation tax.
The council is considering a proposal to impose such a tax on purchases, apartments and hotel rooms in the downtown Capitol District. The proposed Capitol District retail tax is .5 percent. Some council members have said they’re reluctant to vote for a new tax.
The Crossroads occupation tax would cost patrons an additional 1.95 percent on their purchases, and that money would pay for infrastructure improvements for the area.
Despite her doubts, Stothert said she’s eager to see movement at Crossroads.
“I want that site to be developed more than anybody wants that site to be developed,” she said Wednesday.
Starts and stops in plan to redevelop aging mall
1960: Crossroads is built
June 2010: Frank Krejci buys the Crossroads property
January 2011: Krejci and Rod Yates announce a “University Village” featuring an open-air center with new stores, restaurants and apartments aimed at college students. It would also include public space and possibly a library. The project is projected to cost $175 million to $200 million. The preliminary target is to open at Thanksgiving 2013.
August 2011: The city designates the area around Crossroads as “blighted,” a designation that is required for tax-increment financing.
January 2013: Yates unveils a new $350 million plan for the site. The university theme is scrapped and instead the aim is to appeal to a wider demographic through its retail mix, high-end hotel and public amenities, including a park at the center. Everything west of Target is to be demolished. Opening date is set at April 2015.
January 2014: Yates and Mayor Jean Stothert sign a memorandum of understanding that says the city will approve the use of tax-increment financing, a new occupation tax and the use of general obligation bonds. The price tag climbs to $400 million.
February 2014: The City Council votes to put the general obligation bonds on the May ballot.
March 2014: The council reverses its decision after it becomes clear to city officials that the ballot issue would be a hard sell to Omahans.
May 2014: Yates scales back the plan to roughly $260 million and says the project will be completed in phases. He says the project is on track to open in fall 2016.
October 2014: Yates further scales back the proposal to a $200 million project.
October 2015: Yates says the project is now $275 million for the first phase. He says he hopes to start construction by March and have the project open by the 2016 holidays. Yates and Stothert both say they haven’t come to an agreement about city incentives.
April 2016: Stothert sends Yates a letter detailing an incentive package and asking him to respond by June.
June 2016: Both sides say they’ve come to an informal agreement on incentives. The package includes tax-increment financing, a new occupation tax and the use of redevelopment bonds for infrastructure improvements.
May 2017: Stothert and Yates agree to an incentive package that includes those three items. In addition, the city agrees to buy a parking garage on the Crossroads site for $7 million. The first and second phases are set to cost $233 million, with 28 percent coming from city incentives.