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Esports arena is part of $100 million-plus health campus proposed near 28th & Martha

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Millwork Commons, centered at 13th and Nicholas Streets in north downtown, has expanded. Millwork Park features a skateboard spot and basketball hoops and is preparing to build more housing.

A new health and recreational campus spanning 25 acres and containing five buildings — including a competitive video and gaming arena — soon might pop up on a little-known swath south of downtown Omaha.

Estimated price tag: more than $100 million.

Transformation of the industrial tract near South 28th and Martha Streets could begin next fall and open in 2024 if all goes as envisioned, said David Lutz, an Omaha attorney and senior managing director for Community Health Development Partners, the real estate developer behind the proposed campus.

The Intersections, as the project is called, intends to attract people from across the region. It would charge fees for programs, services and events yet be accessible to underserved populations — in part by providing a place where certain nonprofits can operate or practice at discounted rates, Lutz said.

“We are trying to create a community hub that’s an ecosystem for wellness and fun,” he said.

The project site is bounded generally by Martha Street on the north, Deer Park Boulevard on the south, Interstate 480 to the west and the Union Pacific railroad tracks to the east.

“We believe our location will provide the most access to North and South Omaha, and our amenities will draw people from all over the city and the region,” Lutz said.

Included within those boundaries is the recently closed 10-acre A&R Salvage & Recycling yard. Lutz said a concrete-crushing operation also is in the area, along with about 10 homes that CHDP plans to demolish to create a blank slate on which to build.

He said CHDP already has control of most of those residences and land.

Five key buildings at the proposed Intersections campus, in total, would span about 300,000 square feet. (For perspective, the Baxter Arena in midtown is about 220,000 square feet.) The buildings:

A “technology and eSports center” featuring labs, educational space and an arena for electronic video game competition.

An “action sports facility” would house an indoor skate/BMX park and a boulder-climbing gym.

A girls’ and women’s center would include performance space and medical services.

A “sports, fitness and rehab facility” would house athletic and performance training, physical and occupational therapy, basketball and volleyball courts, multi-turf fields, sports simulators and a fitness gym.

A “community center and nonprofit incubator” would contain a range of medical and wellness services, a commercial kitchen and food hall.

The for-profit CHDP, which is about two years old and has a foundation arm, describes itself as a “mission-focused” real estate developer that would manage and own the campus.

Lutz said the group operates under the premise that profitable and fee-charging components, such as health services or citywide tournaments, are necessary to help sustain programming accessible to underserved populations. The participation and buy-in from diverse community organizations, in turn, attract a wider variety of investors.

“We’re being very intentional about creating a mixed social environment,” Lutz said. “We need a mix of both profit and nonprofit to make it work.”

Omaha attorney George Achola, who is with Burlington Capital, is on the group’s advisory committee. He said the eastern part of the city deserves quality sports and wellness facilities similar to those rising across the suburbs and west Omaha.

“It’s going to, hopefully, provide a little more equity,” Achola said. “You can’t ask a parent on the corner of 24th and Q to constantly take their kids out to Gretna and Elkhorn to participate. It’s impractical in a lot of ways.”

Many details of the South Omaha project have yet to be hammered out, including securing agreements with area nonprofit entities that might partner with the CHDP in some way. As an example, Lutz said, CHDP likely will allow a local nonprofit skateboarding group to practice and have an office at the complex at a discounted rent. The skate club members also might get sliding fee or discounted rates to events.

Lutz said he is optimistic his group can obtain the financial support necessary to construct the complex that he anticipates will cost “north of $100 million,” though he said it will take time.

The group is meeting with City of Omaha leaders to begin the process of designating the project site blighted so it can be eligible for tax-increment financing, an incentive that helps defray the cost of eligible development costs.

Lutz, an attorney who specializes in public financing mechanisms, said other incentives and tools will be tapped, as well.

The Intersections campus would be the group’s biggest venture to date.

Elsewhere, CHDP has launched a 30,000-square-foot community health center set to open next year in rural Elko, Nevada. A similar project in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, also is to be done next year. Those projects are more focused on the treatment side, Lutz said, whereas Omaha is more focused on encouraging healthful lifestyles.

CHDP overall has about 25 people staffing its operation, Lutz said, about half of whom are based in Omaha. The group is opening a temporary Omaha office until the campus is built.

“This Omaha project is going to be our flagship project,” he said. “We want to really hit it out of the park and have it be something we’re known for.”


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Reporter - Money

Cindy covers housing, commercial real estate development and more for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

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