Every year, the CRE Summit recognizes its “Development of the Year” and “Deal of the Year.” These awards honoring impactful developments and transactions consider size, scope, investment, complexity, and potential influence on future development activity.
This year’s winners spotlight developments in Omaha and Lincoln that are bringing positive change to the Midlands.
Development of the Year (Lincoln): Lied Place
At 257 feet and 20 stories, Lied Place is altering the capital city skyline.
“It is the tallest private building in Lincoln,” said Tamas “Tam” Allan, an attorney who owns the firm that developed Lied Place, Village Development. “To the best of our knowledge, the rooftop residential units are the highest residences in Nebraska.”
Lied Place LLC is a venture shared by Allan, Joey Hausmann, Jon Bruning and Doug Rath. Area firms, Hausmann Construction, Sinclair Hille Architects and First National Bank Omaha, were involved with the $36 million project at 1125 Q St. The site was carved out by the city when the Lied Center requested space be allotted for a multi-story building to conceal the parking garage façade.
“Every time I would come out of a Lied Center performance I would see this sliver of a building site,” Allan recalled, a reference to its slight 33-foot depth and 163-foot width. “We bought it in 2014 and couldn’t figure out what to do with it for five years, but we knew it was a great site.”
They considered a hotel, onboarding Atlanta’s Smallwood as building architect due to its expertise with Ritz-Carlton high-rise hotels. But Allan said they didn’t like the economics of a high-end hotel downtown.”
“We did like their building design and ended up converting the hotel plan to condominiums,” he said.
Construction commenced in September 2019. The first residential buyers moved in February 2022. As of early July, the majority of the 37 residential units have closed. The city, according to Allan, acknowledged the project’s important and worked with them on all stages of the design, from Tax Increment Financing, to user agreements for the adjacent city parking garage.
Development of the Year (Omaha): The Farnam Hotel
Redevelopment is no easy task. But the Landmark Center Redevelopment – The Farnam Hotel at 1299 Farnam Street – presented next-level challenges.
“This was a 275,000-square-foot, 15-story office building,” recalled Jason Fisher, CEO of the Cushman & Wakefield/The Lund Company.
An attached 525-stall parking garage, 400,000-square-foot CenturyLink data center, and shared lobby (The Link) added to the complexity and demanded careful coordination around existing office tenants. Creativity was employed when arriving at the “best use:” a luxury hotel with three new food and beverage concepts.
“We like to think about it as ‘vertical mixed-use’ with all the components of live, work and play in one building,” he explained.
Partly, its design integrated interior finishes to connect office, hotel and restaurant spaces. Its ownership structure further used and allowed for “opportunity zone” investment. Furthermore, Fisher indicated they had to build a “brand story” from scratch for the boutique hotel, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection family.
Undertaken at the height of the pandemic, the $70 million-plus project was described by Fisher as “unlike any other development in town” as a vertical mixed-use, large-scale, third-party, multi-tenant building.
“There have been mixed-use projects and neighborhoods,” Fisher said. “There have also been large-scale office redevelopments. However, never in the same building and never with this sort of use conversion or magnitude.”
Deal of the Year (Lincoln): Cancer Center Partners Lease
At $75 million, a 128,000-square-foot comprehensive cancer care facility represents one of Bryan Health’s largest investments for the city, state and region. According to information provided by NAI FMA Realty, Bryan Health reached out to the firm to identify costs for a building and lease. Following an extensive search, it was determined a new facility would “address the community needs better,” rather than converting an existing building. The final south Lincoln site, donated in memory of April Sampson, will be anchored by Cancer Center Partners and is slated to open fall 2023.
“The teamwork and strategic partnerships built between Bryan Medical Center, Cancer Partners of Nebraska and NAI FMA Realty led to achieving the goal of better cancer care to the region,” said NAI FMA Realty Senior Vice President, Property Management Scott Vyskocil. “We applaud the partners for navigating the complexity of the transaction along with challenges brought on by the pandemic, as we all knew the long-term positive community impact of this project.”
Vyskocil was joined by President Richard Meginnis; Vice President, Sales and Leasing, Mike Ball; and Bryan Health’s Vice President of Clinical & Support Services, David Reese, in bringing this deal to fruition.
The April Sampson Cancer Center, designed by Ballinger, reflects trends in cancer care and transcends the “traditional” medical facility and office design, incorporating insights from other centers around the country and the latest technology.
Deal of the Year (Omaha): Blackstone Plaza
The Lund Company was also the redevelopment force behind the “reimagining” of the 15-story, 240,000-square-foot, 1960s-era Kiewit Plaza. The monolith at 36th and Farnam streets is now Blackstone Plaza, the new home to local NBC affiliate WOWT. The fully revamped site features offices and the return of a storied meeting space: The Cloud Room. The firm worked with architects, attorneys and contractors to separate an attached two-story space from the 15-story tower (security requirements and mandates established by WOWT owner, Gray TV). The team arrived at an answer in the form of a “condominium regime.”
“It’s not every day that a developer has to envision a way to separate two attached buildings from one another to meet ownership mandates,” said John F. Lund.
And, while it was noted that condo regimes are created in larger cities with mixed-use projects, separating a smaller building with a resulting “shared” lobby added to the complexity. Novel solutions were deployed in “record time” – 19 months from purchase to WOWT occupancy. The former WOWT property is slated to make way for a 200-unit housing space (by summer 2024).