When Eric Wieseler graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2004, the plan was to come back to Omaha and look for a job with some of the corporate giants. Instead, he looked up.
“I lived downtown and really enjoyed the Old Market. I think it’s an incredibly unique place with beautiful historic buildings and all that,” he said. “One building in particular stood out to me. It had a tremendous location, beautiful architecture, very interesting property but the upper floors were literally boarded up.
“I’m thinking to myself, I can’t believe this beautiful property is just sitting here underutilized, not active above the street level. So, I tracked down the owner and started having coffees and lunches with him. I think he got a kick out of me, being that young, tenacious individual, very green, very baby-faced.”
One day, his lunch companion threw out a number he’d take for the building. All that remained for the ambitious Wieseler, who by that time had joined First Management Inc., was to come up with the money.
Birth of a Career
“Identifying a project, putting the proformas together, creating the vision for it, I had all that pretty well worked out in my head, but I had to go and get partners that would actually finance it,” he said. “I met these individuals through the Nebraska Angels Network. I had a very intriguing project and I had, I guess, a lot of get-up-and-go. It was enough for them to sign off on it. They put up real cash, and we were off to the races.”
The story of the deal — as with Wieseler’s nearly 20-year career in real estate, which has seen 14 other deals like it —makes everything sound easy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Wieseler’s path has been littered with countless conferences and seminars to learn the finer points of his craft, to say nothing of after-hours research and constant networking. It was effort that didn’t go unnoticed among his peers and competitors alike, which is critical as reputation is paramount in the close confines of Omaha’s commercial real estate community.
“There aren’t a tremendous number of people who are in that business,” he said. “Residential, there’s a lot of brokers out there doing deals. But in commercial real estate, it’s a pretty small circle. And even as the city’s grown pretty substantially, there is still a general respect for people and professionals. That I don’t see changing.”
The collegial nature of the commercial real estate community may be constant, but that’s about it when it comes to Wieseler’s chosen stock and trade. Omaha’s run of growth during his career has changed much about the look and function of the city and its neighborhoods. But for him, he said, it all comes back to downtown.
“My heart is still downtown — the Old Market,” he said. “I recently developed a really nice apartment building in Little Italy and we have another sizeable project that I’m actually in design phase right now, right across the street at 10th and Pierce. I still see plenty of opportunity to create a more dense urban environment in our city.
“The historic stock is basically all used up, having been demolished or rehabbed, for the most part. But there’s still a lot of infill opportunities. I think that we’ll probably go from rehabilitation-type projects to more parking lot infill new construction, bringing the same variety of mixed-use properties with apartments on the upper floors, retail, restaurant, bar on the first floor. I think that surface lots are something I’d like to see continue to get developed.”