Transforming the Omaha Landscape: John Lund Looks Back on 40-plus Years of The Lund Company

Upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1973, John F. Lund made what turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life. 

“On the advice of my father, I got my real estate license. He told me something that has stayed with me: ‘Your real estate license will probably be worth more than your college degree,’” Lund said. “I didn’t really understand what he meant by that when he said it, but I have been in real estate ever since. I’ve never gone in any other direction.”

Lund worked briefly for two real estate firms, one commercial and one residential, an experience he said was valuable training for branching out on his own.  

“I learned quickly that I wanted to move from residential to commercial, and I learned a lot about doing what I did and building relationships and learning how to manage properties,” he said. “I started my own firm in 1981. I always wanted to do it myself.”

“Myself” was a perfect description for The Lund Company when Lund launched it the year he turned 30. 

John F. Lund, Founder & Chairman, The Lund Company
John F. Lund, Founder & Chairman, The Lund Company (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)

“It started with me alone in 1981 … I got up very early and I stayed up late and I met all the people I could and I sold myself. I created this organization and I brought within our firm the best people I could find. That’s truly what I think my gift is: finding great people,” Lund said. “Today we’re approaching 400 individuals who work at this firm. 

“We evolved from a startup property management company to a leasing organization to a brokerage company to a development company. We’ve continued to evolve and become entrenched within our market. Omaha is a primary market for us, of course, it’s our hometown. But we have gone into other markets over the years and we’ve found some success with that. And we’re going to continue to grow, mostly throughout the region.”

The company’s development and acquisition portfolio includes Regency Court Shopping Center, Landmark Center, the PayPal campus and the Securities America headquarters. Other notable projects include the AAA Auto Club campus, Omaha Tower, Clocktower Village, One Pacific Place, and Blackstone Plaza (the former Kiewit headquarters). 

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Some projects involve building from the ground up, like Securities America and PayPal, Lund said, but the company also brings new life to existing facilities. 

“I think we’re kind of noted for taking something that was built and changing it to put it in today’s environment,” he said. 

One such example is Regency Court, purchased from the first owner, Mutual of Omaha. In addition to mainstay Borsheims, the center — now Regency Omaha — has become home to upscale retailers and restaurants like Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and Bonefish Grill. 

“We thought it could be greater, so we made it into a lifestyle center,” Lund said. “We brought in a lot of new brands to the market.” 

Another example is the full-scale upgrade/renovation of the 450 Regency Parkway building, named Development of the Year at the 2012 Commercial Real Estate Summit. It’s now home to The Lund Company’s offices, among others. 

The most recent example is the Blackstone Plaza renovation, now in its final stages. 

“We liked the Blackstone District. And we liked the momentum that Midtown is achieving. We liked the possibility of it becoming greater than it ever has been with a potential streetcar,” Lund said. “We are taking that building and turning it into a class-A office building.”

The Lund Company also manages 18,000 residential units in a four-state region, Lund said.  

“It’s become a significant part of our firm,” he said.

As he looks back, the founder and chairman said his namesake company has grown “way beyond my imagination.” 

“I didn’t set out to start and develop and create a company as large and dynamic as it has been, but to be a part of it today is something I don’t take for granted,” Lund said.

In 2012, Lund was recognized in Midwest Real Estate News magazine’s Midwest Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame and in 2015 he was inducted into the Commercial Real Estate Summit’s Hall of Fame. This year he was inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. 

His past and present contributions to the Greater Omaha community include leadership and board positions with the Omaha Airport Authority, Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority (MECA), the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds, the Greater Omaha Chamber board, and Omaha by Design. Lund is also an alumnus of Leadership Omaha.

Lund and his wife Vanita have been married 19 years and have a blended family of seven adult children and 13 (soon to be 14) grandchildren. Most of their family live in or near Omaha.  

“It’s a lot of activity,” Lund said. “We have a house that can accommodate when we’re getting everyone together; it’s a lot of people in a room!”

 Lund said as much as his wife urges him to slow down, he’s still coming to work every day at age 71. 

“I have a lot of drive and energy, and I don’t give up. I just have something burning within me that wants to compete and win as many as I can,” he said. “I like the challenge of winning. I am just built that way.”

With that drive and energy, it’s easy to imagine Lund as a UNL freshman on the university’s inaugural crew team, where he served as coxswain for a year.  

“I was the one you see at the front with the megaphone,” he said. “I like trying new things.” 

He’s still open to change, personally and professionally.

In 2012, The Lund Company became an affiliate of Cushman & Wakefield, a global real estate firm. 

“Their name is as recognized around the world as our name is recognized in our market,” Lund said. “We’re a local brand, they’re a global brand, and together we are a complete service company that can do commercial real estate business now in areas beyond our community.”

The Lund Company now has a larger platform, greater business volume and more opportunities, Lund said. 

“It was a very smart move of ours. I look back and think that might have been one the most significant decisions this firm has made in its 40-year history, becoming part of a global company,” he said, adding that the company now manages a portfolio of approximately $1.5 billion. 

“We are a commercial real estate provider,” Lund said. “We have professionals within our organization that articulate the vision that property owners may have. 

“We have third-party clients; we assist and help them manage, lease and/or sell their real estate. We’re managers and we’re advisers. And we’re a service-driven company. Our employees are our assets; they are professionals who provide the services clients need.” 

Some of those team members have been with the company since the earliest years. Lund also employs several individuals who’ve celebrated work anniversaries of 30 years or more. 

“I think, looking back at four decades, what I’m most proud of is the people that have had the confidence to instill in our firm and us establishing relationships to make people better at what they did … I’m proud of their loyalty and I’m proud of what we have done for them to continue to be part of this firm’s growth,” he said. “I’m more proud of that than I am the buildings we have renovated and built and so forth.”

The real estate business, after all, is about people, Lund said. 

“I like people. I like coming to the office and the interaction; I like when we’re in meetings and when we’re talking about projects, what’s going right and what’s going wrong and what new projects we can consider,” he said. “That’s my thrill every day; it’s the dialog that occurs with the folks who are part of our firm. It’s a big reason I’m here every day.”