High Retail Visibility: Options in Two Downtown Districts

Something New

It’s been nearly a decade since the vision for the Capitol District took form. With the final phase of construction complete, only a handful of retail spaces remain available for lease. 

Boh Kurylo, executive vice president of brokerage services at Lerner Co., has been working on leasing the final spaces on behalf of Shamrock Development. 

“It’s a little slower than we had hoped, but the pandemic slowed us down from a leasing standpoint,” he said. “We’ve got two restaurants under construction; one will be opening this fall and one will be opening this spring.” 

The two restaurants include steakhouse Texas De Brazil and Let It Fly, which are both making their debut in Nebraska. Kurylo described both restaurants as having upscaled menus and large patios that open to the main plaza, which will increase foot traffic between establishments.

“Because it’s an entertainment district you can wander with your drink from establishment to establishment, but you can also sit out on the patio and watch a concert or a football game on the big screens,” he said. 

Only one “larger” retail space – 7,500 square feet — remains available for lease with other parcels being on a smaller scale. Kurylo said the last large parcel would be ideal for another sit-down restaurant. In particular, he believes a brunch concept would do best. 

Capitol District Plaza (Photo Courtesy of Lerner Co.)
Capitol District Plaza (Photo Courtesy of Lerner Co.)

“You can see in the city right now that there’s a few brunch places popping up,” he said. “There’s a need.” 

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Businesses that could help round out the original “live, work, play” vision are ideal fits for the remaining smaller parcels. This could be anywhere from a gym to a “wine and cheese craft cocktail” bar. 

“A small type of venue to create something different that’s meeting the needs both of the people that live downtown, work downtown, or are going to the CHI [Health Center Arena],” he said.  

The development is nearing 100% occupancy at a time when other large-scale investments are being made in downtown Omaha to strengthen the core. 

“It just shows what Omaha can do,” Kurylo said. “I think we are reaching a different level now with what’s happening downtown. It’s going to make you really proud of the city.”  

Rethinking History

Just north of the Capital District, another formally abandoned industrial area is receiving a second lease on life. Millwork Commons, which is located on 50 acres of land at 13th and Nicholas streets, got its start nearly 130 years ago as a neighborhood for millworkers and furniture makers.  

Black Dog Management, the investment firm, has been focused on keeping that authenticity by retrofitting existing buildings, including housing, and making space for entrepreneurs in every structure. 

“It’s all about creating opportunities for all types of people to thrive and do their best,” said PJ Morgan CEO and co-owner Ryan Ellis, who is the leasing agent for the development.  

“You have this diverse ecosystem already built around us and growing from within it creates a place that people want to visit and discover. That’s an incredible draw for retailers. They’re a part of the story of the neighborhood.” 

Retailers located at The Dock in the Ashton building. (Photo courtesy of PJ Morgan Real Estate)
Retailers located at The Dock in the Ashton building.
(Photo courtesy of PJ Morgan Real Estate)

Of note, in May it was recorded that there were over 60 tenants on the campus ranging from startups, nonprofits, creatives and other entrepreneurial businesses. Current tenants have been instrumental in helping PJ Morgan determine what the community wants and needs. 

“Tenants have really said that they want to support local retailers,” Ellis said. “Some [current tenants] are second or third locations, but they’ve been well received.”  

Ellis is referring to Archetype Coffee, Hutch, Sweet Magnolia’s Bake Shop and Kros Strain Draft Works, all of which are housed in the common area, dubbed The Dock, in The Ashton Building. A fifth company, Clean Slate Food Co., is also located in the common area as well as a bay open for lease.  

The benefit of having so many local retailers side by side is the potential for collaboration, which several of these retailers have already done.

 For example, Archetype Coffee worked with Kros Strain and Sweet Magnolia’s Bake Shop to create Sweet Archetype, an imperial milk stout. 

The Dock, community space located in Millwork Commons. (Photo courtesy of PJ Morgan Real Estate)
The Dock, community space located in Millwork Commons.
(Photo courtesy of PJ Morgan Real Estate)

“It’s really important for us to fill the rest of the spaces with people who appreciate collaboration and want to be part of it,” Ellis said. 

With HELLO Apartments up and running, attention has been turned toward the next major project called The Dizzy Mule. The Dizzy Mule, also known as the Disbrow Block, will follow in HELLO Apartments’ footsteps with the first floor to be reportedly 18,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, amenities, and parking for the second and third-floor apartment residents.  

Ellis said that there will be traditional retail space available as well as “micro-retail spots” of about 300 square feet that could be used for startups, or second locations. Two alleyways near the building will add to the visibility of these shops. 

“It will create really walkable alleyways and interesting spaces for some of these micro retail spots,” he said. “It will be really discoverable, highly infused with art, and something you don’t see anywhere else in the city.” 

Construction is slated for this fall.

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