Sprawling mixed-use development launches on longtime Sarpy County farm site

Developer expects value of ‘Tower District Papillion’ to be roughly $300 million

By: - June 28, 2022 5:45 am
The Tower District

The Tower District is to be developed on about 120 acres north of Highway 370 between 84th and 90th Streets in Sarpy County. (Courtesy of HDR)

PAPILLION — A sprawling, 120-acre greenspace in the midst of this Sarpy County seat is about to sprout a neighborhood of hundreds of homes, offices, commercial spaces and trails oriented toward the city’s iconic water tower.

Dubbed the Tower District Papillion, the new subdivision north of Highway 370 between 84th and 90th Streets is expected to result in roughly $300 million in taxable property valuation, said development team partner Jesse Calabretto.

By the time it’s completely built in about a decade, the district is to include 900 dwellings with designs ranging from luxury estates to market-rate apartments, some above retail storefronts.

There will be an assortment of commercial spaces, including office buildings and what Calabretto described as bed-and-breakfast-looking properties occupied by businesses and service providers.

“We’re creating a city within a city,” Calabretto said. “We’re real excited. It’s a true mixed-use development catering to all price points and demographics.”

Prime development site

A groundbreaking event is scheduled Tuesday at the tract, about a mile south of downtown Papillion that’s been eyed as a prime development site for many years.

Tower District
The Tower District is to be developed on about 120 acres north of Highway 370 between 84th and 90th Streets in Sarpy County. (Courtesy of HDR)

Its history for generations has been as family-owned farm and crop land — and the home of the city’s south water tower, which stands more than 100 feet high.

Some four years ago, a different local developer had proposed an estimated $113 million undertaking called Papillion Commons but dropped the plan for apartments, retail, offices, park, hotel and movie theater before it got to final planning stages.

Mark Stursma, Papillion’s deputy administrator of community development, sees the new and current venture as “resilient” in that many of the structures are designed to be versatile.

“There are multiple ways to use a building, whether commercial, office or residential,” Stursma said. “So even if the market changes, the plan will still function and work in creating a neighborhood.”

A main reason the area remained undeveloped for so long, Stursma and Calabretto said, is that the Trumble family owners were intent on working with someone who would convert the bulk or all of the land as one cohesive project, rather than sell it off in piecemeal fashion.

Pedestrian-friendly

Calabretto’s team of investors, officially known as 84-370 Main Street LLC, held meetings with neighboring subdivisions and consulted with HDR’s Doug Bisson and Papillion officials to come up with a design befitting the surroundings.

“They’re very intentional about making the project pedestrian-friendly and walkable, particularly the more commercial components,” Stursma said.

Though technically not inside the city limits, the tract is within Papillion’s zoning jurisdiction and annexation zone and had to get the green light from Papillion officials. It is being financed and developed as a sanitary improvement district. 

Stursma said Papillion is to contribute by upgrading a few major arterials around the project site, such as 90th Street, that already needed improvements.

“It’s logical for the city to do these when other work is being done” by developers, he said. “That’s not uncommon or unique to this project.”

Papillion city officials are to be joined by Sarpy County economic development officials at the groundbreaking. Klemke Real Estate Group/Berkshire Hathaway Ambassador Real Estate is helping to market residential lots. Colliers Nebraska is the broker for commercial pieces.

That water tower is incredibly iconic for Papillion.

– Jesse Calabretto, partner in development team

Among the project highlights is a landmark water tower, which city officials say was built in 1975. It, along with another water tower on the city’s northern side, helps provide water supply and pressure to Papillion and will continue to function as such.

Papillion’s south water tower. View is looking south toward Highway 370, with redevelopment site in forefront. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

The city is considering adding decorative lighting and other enhancements to the tower that will provide a backdrop for selfies and photo opportunities.

“That water tower is incredibly iconic for Papillion,” Calabretto said. He said the development team is creating “view corridors” whose background focal point will be the tower.

Selfies, photo opps

A community park, for example, will be a place for Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies, farmers markets and other gatherings. People will be able to look up and through strategic openings and see the tower.

Among the 900 dwellings, Calabretto said, will be nearly 20 estate lots that would sell for upwards of $650,000, perhaps some beyond $1 million.

Among other for-sale housing will be “cottages” with garages in the back and managed like a villa community where maintenance is handled by a contractor.

Starting price for townhomes likely would be $250,000 to $300,000, he said. Apartments likely would start at about $850 in rent, he said.

Calabretto said about 65% of the site has a residential focus. He declined to name commercial or office tenants, saying he didn’t want to steal the thunder of their announcements. 

“The activity has been strong,” he said.

Grading currently is underway, with infrastructure to begin later this year. Some of the first homes and commercial tenants are expected in late 2023. The site is to have miles of walking trails and green space. 

Calabretto reinforced the development team’s goal for diverse building and housing types to create a neighborhood feel.  

“We want an entry level home to have access to the same amenities as an estate level home,” said Calabretto. 

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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.

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