The Civic Auditorium’s second act kicked off Wednesday as the City of Omaha announced it will enlist a headhunter to solicit developers for the 10 acres of prime downtown land.
Ideas for the site have ranged from restoring the auditorium’s music hall to using the land for a new police headquarters to developing a retail and residential project like Midtown Crossing.
Mayor Jim Suttle, speaking at a press conference Wednesday, said he’s open to anything.
“I want to keep a very, very open mind,” he said. “This is a big deal.”
The headhunter, or “owner representative,” will be responsible for coming up with a plan for the land and enticing developers to make it a reality. City officials said they envision a national search for a good match.
The consultant will conduct a market study to find out what development would be the best fit for the site and for the city’s master plan.
Preliminary estimates peg the cost to demolish the 9,300-seat auditorium, Music Hall and convention hall at $5 million to $7 million, Suttle said. The estimates, however, did not include an environmental study of the structure, and the actual cost could be higher.
The auditorium will shut down next summer, although the parking garage will remain.
The 59-year-old Civic — which had headliners including a vice presidential debate, an NBA team and Elvis — has been left behind as other arenas have been built around the metro area.
While the CenturyLink Center, Council Bluffs’ Mid-America Center and the new Ralston Arena opened, the auditorium’s physical condition has suffered, its finances have fallen into the red and it has lost key tenants.
Omaha Planning Director Rick Cunningham said the land should be attractive to potential developers.
“In any city, 10 acres in an urban core is definitely a smart deal,” he said. “It could be a game-changing piece of land.”
Video: Major Jim Suttle discussed the city's plan to close the Omaha Civic Auditorium and hopefully sell it to a developer at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Area arenas competing for events
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