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Builder's District bringing apartments, offices, grocery store to downtown Omaha

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A new study look at several possibilities for the core of Omaha.

A planned development spanning about 12 city blocks could bring new office space, apartments, an urban park and a small grocery store to downtown Omaha.

Developers are working on an ambitious schedule, hoping to begin construction on the first part of the project by next month. Once completed, the project would be an investment of about $500 million, said developer Jay Noddle of Noddle Cos.

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The Builder’s District development will run from Cuming Street on the north to Cass Street on the south. The western edge is on 17th Street with the eastern edge on 14th Street.

“It’s another one of the next round of projects in the urban core, which we all know is really important,” Noddle said.

The development is working its way through the approval process, with one building already receiving the initial green light from the city’s Planning Board. The entire development could be finished in the next seven to eight years, developers said.

The first building in the project will sit near 15th and Mike Fahey Streets. At about 120,000 square feet, the building will have room for commercial and office space as well as first-floor spots for restaurants and a fitness center.

Construction on the $57 million project is expected to start in September, wrapping up by the end of 2023. While no tenants are signed on yet, Noddle said the office market is strong, giving developers the confidence to start construction.

The building at 15th and Mike Fahey Streets features unique — and environmentally friendly — design features. Exposed structure in the building, such as columns and ceilings, will be made of mass timber. Steel still will be used in areas that have drywall, such as hallways, elevators bays and restrooms.

“It’s a little more responsible,” Noddle said. “You can grow more trees. It’s less of a carbon footprint, and aesthetically, it’s really interesting.”

Officegoers will be able to open windows for fresh air. Since the start of the pandemic, fresh air has become more emphasized than it was before.

The building also will feature two rooftop decks and a pedestrian plaza. A park open for civic or community events and outdoor recreation will sit on the south side of the building.

A larger park and recreation area will sit between 16th and 17th Streets near Burt Street. The urban park isn’t designed to compete with the larger riverfront park developments, Noddle said. Instead, it’s made to have a neighborhood feel.

“It’s really important for the neighborhood to have its own outdoor space,” Noddle said. “A place to walk the dog, grab a cup of coffee, hang out.”

The park will be nestled in a fence of shipping containers. Surplus construction materials, such as pipes and other items, will be repurposed and used in the park’s design.

Renderings show green space and seating options.

The park also will feature a projection screen to allow parkgoers to watch movies or sporting events. And, at least for a little while, the two-way screen will allow for a drive-in theater.

A parcel north of the park will be developed later. But until parking structures are finished, it will serve as a parking lot, giving the option to host drive-in movies.

“Let’s not put a lot of stuff in the ground that we’re just going to tear out and not be able to repurpose when future development takes place,” Noddle said.

The development also includes plans for additional office buildings and apartments. A space in renderings also shows a small-scale but still full-service grocery store, something the downtown area is lacking.

Portions of the project are in different design stages, Noddle said, but should fall in line.

Noddle Cos. is behind Aksarben Village, too, and the design — particularly of the park — pulls elements from that project.

“We’re going to be able to take the lessons we learned at Aksarben Village and apply them and improve things in the Builder’s District,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

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