$28 million project to take ‘hip’ Omaha housing district to new heights

Urban Indian health coalition to move and be replaced downtown by new market-rate units

By: - April 4, 2022 3:13 pm
Six-story apartment building coming to west downtown Omaha

The Howard apartments, 2323 Howard St., will expand the Flats on Howard neighborhood in downtown Omaha. (Courtesy of Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture)

OMAHA — A nearly $28 million apartment building is to be the high point, literally, of a trendy residential pocket that for the past seven years or so has been transforming an area on downtown Omaha’s western edge.

The new structure, to be called The Howard, is to rise six stories high and contain 120 market-rate units, along with 132 indoor parking stalls and a workout facility.

It is to operate at 2323 Howard St. as an extension of the Flats on Howard, a neighborhood redevelopment effort that launched around 2015 in an old mansion district that had fallen into disrepair.

Developers Arch Icon and NuStyle, both based in Woodbine, Iowa, are behind the overall revival of the district that now will include nearly an acre of ground which has long been home to the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition and its treatment services. 

Expands the Flats community

With that land absorbed into the surrounding Flats community for The Howard apartments, the millennial- and student-friendly redevelopment will occupy almost all of the area bounded by 22nd and 24th Streets, Dewey Avenue and Landon Court.

The Mayfair building
The Mayfair is one of the structures in the Flats on Howard neighborhood (Courtesy of NuStyle Development)

And the number of dwellings in the Flats grows to 300 — ranging from brand-new and rehabbed micro apartments to larger, refurbished row houses with inviting front porches. (One resident has gotten millions of views on her series of  TikTok videos featuring her unit that’s smaller than 400 square feet.)

“The Flats has always been a great improvement to the area, and the mid-priced units are a hit,” NuStyle’s Todd Heistand said of the dwellings also popular with nearby Creighton University students.

Construction on the new Howard building, which first calls for demolition of the aging Urban Indian headquarters complex, is to begin this summer and wrap up next summer.

NuStyle, which will manage and own the new property, seeks City of Omaha approval for $3.28 million in public tax-increment financing, an amount that doesn’t include accrued interest.

Land swap

Under the Legislature-created TIF program, intended to spur economic development of blighted areas, property tax revenue generated from the new development is redirected to pay the applicant’s TIF loan and interest for a period of 15 to 20 years. Typically, those property taxes flow to public schools and municipalities.

In the case of The Howard apartments, the City Planning Department has given a preliminary thumbs up, saying the initiative furthers the city’s efforts to create “healthy and diverse” neighborhoods and reverse “deterioration in older areas of the central city.”

The project also has paved the way for an upgraded campus for the Urban Indian Coalition in a different part of town.

Under a property swap arrangement, the coalition programs will relocate to a facility that Arch Icon had owned in South Omaha, a former Eagles Club at 22nd and N Streets.

That brick building is being renovated, with a boost from a nearly $9 million fundraising campaign, for the Urban Indian offices and services, including a residential wing for people struggling with behavioral health disorders. Also on site will be an elders program called Tired Moccasins, youth and computer technology programs, a small health clinic and more.

Eagles Club

Arch Icon also assisted the coalition with construction of an affordable apartment complex just west of that rehabbed Eagles Club, called Eagle Heights.

Health coalition CEO Donna Polk said the nonprofit’s move to South Omaha should take place by June. She said it will offer twice the space and will seem a better fit as the downtown neighborhood has changed to the point the coalition felt like “the stranger” there.

Rents at The Howard are to range from about $1,100 for one-bedroom units to $2,000 for units with three bedrooms.

City planners say the project furthers the quest for infill development along the 24th Street corridor.

Amenities in the new structure, including a workout facility, are to benefit the broader Flats community, which is near the Downtown YMCA and the Omaha Children’s Museum. The development is just blocks away from Creighton University, the Old Market and the downtown business district.

Flats on Howard neighborhood
The Flats on Howard neighborhood. (Courtesy of NuStyle Development)

The Flats neighborhood emerged from a much smaller vision years ago. Arch Icon around 2013 had acquired just a couple of properties to renovate near 22nd and Howard Streets but soon realized that success in the larger area, which was beset by crime and building code violations, required a broader fix. 

Mansions, coffee bars

NuStyle, which is owned by the parents of one of Arch Icon’s founders, eventually joined the effort and now manages the Flats, which encompasses the Howard Street Apartment District that since 1996 has been on the National Register of Historic Places.

Most of the historical district’s buildings, according to the register, were second- and third-generation structures that replaced original single family houses and large mansions. 

Working with Alley, Poyner Macchietto Architecture, many historic features were preserved, including some private balconies, hardwood and terrazzo flooring and exterior terra-cotta.

Amenities include a lighted corridor, pet-washing station, coffee bars, courtyards, a bike  storage and repair station, and community lounges with washers and dryers. The Flats website calls the area a “hip collection of historic, refurbished properties” that offers assorted layouts and social hubs. 

“We’re excited to have a new building go up in the neighborhood,” said Arch Icon’s Mindy Crook. “It’s great to add more foot traffic in the neighborhood and more units downtown, which is needed.”

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.