The newest thing brewing in downtown Benson is a plan for a 99-unit apartment building above a bank and other businesses.
The $12 million to $15 million complex, which began its journey to official city approval this week, would rise at 60th Street and Northwest Radial Highway.
It would include a new branch office of Great Western Bank, replacing the current one next door at 6015 Northwest Radial.
The market-rate apartments would be tailored to appeal to young professionals who are attracted to the hip vibe of Benson and who work there or at the growing University of Nebraska Medical Center and other nearby job centers.
It’s also near a popular bike commuting route connecting Benson with midtown and downtown Omaha.
“A project of this magnitude hasn’t happened in Benson in 30 to 40 years,” said City Council President Pete Festersen, whose district includes much of Benson.
The developer is City Ventures LLC, which is now constructing a 125-apartment building, the Corvina, in downtown Omaha.
Chris Erickson, a City Ventures principal, said the Benson business district’s rebirth attracted the firm.
“It is what I would consider one of the most vibrant business districts in the city,” Erickson said.
“It’s a truly organic retail, dining, entertainment experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
He said the apartments would be “upscale units at a more reasonable price point that younger people can afford.” He said rents have not been determined but would be “more than rents on some older (apartments) and less than some new construction.”
The U-shaped apartment complex and bank would go up east and south of the current bank branch, on what’s now a parking lot. The bank would continue operating in its current location until the new place is built. Then the old branch would be demolished.
City Ventures would own the buildings and lease space to the bank.
Initially, the old bank spot and parking lot next door would contain surface parking along Northwest Radial. If business goes well, a second phase would erect a new apartment building with commercial space below. It would form a square, enclosing a courtyard, with the other buildings.
The developers envision a parking garage with the second phase. The second phase could push the total cost to $20 million, “which in the scheme of Benson is a pretty monster commitment,” Erickson said.
The first phase, in addition to on-site surface parking intended to be enough for the development, will add on-street public parking, Erickson said.
That’s likely to include diagonal parking on 60th Street and parallel parking on Binney Street. He said he doesn’t know how many spaces yet, but “it will be in the teens.”
The apartments would be a mix of convertible studios (larger-than-usual one-bedroom apartments) and two-bedroom units.
The design will put a more contemporary spin on Benson architecture, Erickson said.
“Benson’s full of really interesting people, trying really interesting things, and that’s what we want to do with our building,” he said.
The developer is expected to seek tax-increment financing from the City of Omaha to offset such costs as demolition, acquisition and public improvements.
The Omaha Planning Board voted 7-0 Wednesday to approve a rezoning and plat request for “Benson Replat 19.”
That may sound like a band or a beer, but it won’t be the apartments’ name. The name hasn’t been determined, Erickson said.
He said he would like to break ground by September and begin building on the foundation laid by pioneering Benson businesses.
“They’ve been bootstrapping that along for years,” Erickson said. “And what they’ve built is incredible.”