Hub for Innovation: Sarpy County Builds with Future in Mind

What makes a county thrive? Housing that individuals of all budgets can afford. Strong infrastructure. Access to quality health care. An array of amenities that support a robust quality of life. Sarpy County is kicking those priorities into high gear with livable, multi-faceted work-play areas — now and well into the future.

Jesse Calabretto said Sarpy County has been “really good” to Calabretto Building Group over the last several years. But that may very well be an understatement when one takes a deeper dive at the volume and variety of projects. 

“We have quietly developed a very diverse range of land projects and have our plate full with development work in the area for 2022 and well beyond,” said the owner and visionary of the group’s development arm, Calabretto Properties. “We are part of a large team on the Tower District/Papillion project between 90th and Highway 370 to 84th and Highway 370.”

“This community will feature over 900 housing units of different types from single family, multi-family, active senior, cottages and townhomes,” Callabretto said. 

Beyond that, there will be several 100,000 square feet of office, retail and medical space available to the market upon the completion of the site work in late 2023.

“We just completed a new 14,000 square foot retail building in the western part of Sarpy County that houses the new Good Life Sports Bar Gretna location,” Calabretto said. 

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The building also houses the newly opened Stories Coffee. 

Calabretto also highlighted Journey Church’s opening this summer in its Burlington Park development in Gretna.

“Every lot in this 64-acre commercial park has been sold,” Calabretto said. “We are also on the very front end of bringing a 45,000-square-foot indoor sports training facility to the Sarpy County and Gretna community, to be located at the old Spikers Outdoor Volleyball property.”

When asked about the implications of each, Calabretto noted how the Tower District project will infuse a much-needed, diverse housing mix to Papillion in its “urban core.”

“Job creation and entertainment, along with other neighborhood uses, will be a big addition to this 112-acre development,” Calabretto stated. “Along with that, this will generate $200 [million] to $300 million in future property tax value to the city and county.”

A tax increment financing project with a 15-year term, Calabretto Properties’ Royal View development was underscored as the success of the project, reportedly, will pay off the TIF in years seven or eight, putting the property on the tax rolls for Gretna “well ahead of its initial projections,” according to Calabretto.

Papillion VA Veterans Community Living Center (Courtesy of VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System)
Papillion VA Veterans Community Living Center
(Courtesy of VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System)

Innovative Health Care Spaces

Sarpy is home to never-before-seen projects in the health care space; among them, the Papillion VA Veterans Community Living Center (CLC), a partnership between VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System and CHI Health Midlands that opened in June. 

CHI Health Midlands President Kevin Miller said that the VA has largely always built CLCs as free-standing facilities — the Papillion CLC at Midlands is different. With a 34-bed capacity, the center spans two floors that were vacated in 2000 and had formerly housed the hospital’s ancillary support services.

Miller noted how putting the CLC within the existing facility, provides many benefits.

“They don’t have to find the land and all of the resources, and the overall cost of the project is much, much less,” he said, indicating the roughly $11 million project is a fraction of what stand-alone locations normally cost — especially in the current inflationary environment.

It was the relationship that Miller and VP of Patient Care Services Tami Denton had with former regional VA director, Don Burman, that laid the groundwork for this unique partnering, as the VA and other not-for-profits use the amenities to hold meetings.

From there, the trio began discussing bringing the short-stay rehab, skilled nursing and memory care center to this corner of the state — as veterans from the metro and western Iowa have traditionally had to travel to its CLC in Grand Island.

“We were fortunate,” Denton said. “You hear about how there are never enough beds, and all the beds we can staff are full. But we knew we had excess capacity.”

They were able to “retool” or renovate the units/floors and began serving veterans at the end of June.

“It’s about bringing the VA to people and to the places where they live,” Denton added. “So, they aren’t having to drive across Nebraska.”

As part of the new CLC, CHI Midlands is also raising funds for a “Healing Pavilion,” a major beautification/gathering space for patients, families and employees. Via hospital information, the pavilion will be visible from the fifth and sixth floors occupied by veterans, and will include quiet spaces for reflection and meditation, as well as an active space with a basketball court, flag garden and special events area. 

Rendering of Sarpy County Correctional Center (Courtesy of Sarpy County)
Rendering of Sarpy County Correctional Center (Courtesy of Sarpy County)

Groundbreaking Center

Slated for an early 2023 opening, the Sarpy County Correctional Center will feature an innovative Behavioral Health Unit to house 28 inmates. Separate from the jail’s main housing area, the unit will support effective treatment for inmates experiencing mental health crises in isolation or within the general population, which can worsen existing crises, according to Sarpy County information.

Sarpy is further partnering with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to create a forensic psychiatry fellowship to assess and treat inmates with mental illness by supporting the new center’s dedicated behavioral health unit.

“This is a game changer for mental health treatment in Sarpy County,” said County Commissioner Angi Burmeister. “This fellowship will assist inmates who are experiencing a mental health crisis and those with serious mental illnesses, and hopefully get them on a path that doesn’t lead back to jail.”

Participating fellows will get experience working in a correctional center setting by offering court testimony and competency evaluations.

“This has been a really deliberate process that we’ve engaged in with Sarpy County,” said Dr. Howard Liu, chair of the UNMC College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.

“It’s innovative not only with the fellowship, but in the process, we’re creating and supporting a workforce. This is creating a new pipeline of experts, working right here in our community. This is a tremendous need and will help the quality of care and improve the system.”

Gretna Crossing Park (Courtesy of City of Gretna)
Gretna Crossing Park (Courtesy of City of Gretna)

Quality of Life is Multi-Faceted

When asked about the biggest impact on the well-being of current and future residents, the city of Gretna leadership isolated several transformative projects, including the 157-acre Gretna Crossing Park — a hub for rec, entertainment, sports and aquatics experiences; the Crossings Corridor, a future vision for the thoroughfare along Highways 6 and 31; Wehrspann Trail and Natural Resources District (NRD) lakes improvements; and continuum of care campus, Hillcrest Highlands.

“With such a variety of amenities and activities, individuals and families can find interest for all abilities and ages at Gretna Crossing Park,” said City Administrator Paula J. Dennison.

Gretna Crossing Park Master Plan (Courtesy of City of Gretna)
Gretna Crossing Park Master Plan
(Courtesy of City of Gretna)

Pivoting to the corridor, strong market analysis is driving a master plan featuring a mix of housing styles, retail and services, to support the “live-work-play” concept.

It was also noted that Wehrspann Trail’s 4.3 miles will connect to the lake through many residential areas and local school sites, with two NRD lakes adding to trail connections (and providing 90-plus more acres of outdoor rec and flood mitigation), while the Hillcrest project will provide much-needed care as more families move to the community.


Sarpy County Chamber Business Outlook

Business Climate

The business opportunities in Sarpy County have never been better. An educated labor pool and a low cost of living have all contributed to remarkable economic growth in the past decade. More and more businesses have chosen to relocate to the area, continuing this positive trend.


Sarpy County and the Greater Omaha community have what businesses are looking for to succeed in today’s economy. The area’s central location, outstanding workforce, and quality of life all come together to make Sarpy County an economically attractive choice for businesses. New building sites and office parks are available with additional sites being planned. For more information, call the Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation at (402) 233-7155.

Sarpy County is home to many large employers.

The Top 20 Employers include:
Offutt Air Force Base
PayPal, Inc
Papillion-La Vista Public Schools
Bellevue Public School District
Werner Enterprises
Bellevue University
Oriental Trading Company
Ehrling Bergquist Clinic
Hillcrest Health Systems
Sarpy County Government
Alegent Health Midlands Hospital
Northrup Gruman
Bellevue Medical Center
Wal Mart Supercenter – Bellevue
Gretna Public Schools
Super Target
Securities America, Inc.
Streck, Inc.

Source: Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce