Former chunk of downtown Omaha Conagra campus soon to open as Brickline at the Mercantile
City-funded, 720-stall garage is part of $115 million phase
The Brickline at the Mercantile apartments and retail space opening later this year. View looking north near 10th and Harney Streets. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)
OMAHA — When a $500 million redevelopment plan was first announced for obsolete parts of Conagra’s downtown campus, two things hadn’t happened yet: the COVID-19 pandemic and the makeover of Gene Leahy Mall.
Now, five years later, both those events to some degree have bolstered the outlook for the initial housing component slated to open in the next few months — as the Brickline at the Mercantile.
Adjacent to the Brickline is the newly renovated and bustling Leahy Mall, which has led to mounting interest in the 375-apartment complex near 10th and Farnam Streets, said Brad Soderwall of Hines. That Houston-based, privately owned global real estate company is leading the effort to rebuild the northern part of what was once the Fortune 500 Conagra’s worldwide headquarters.
The increase in remote working ushered in by the pandemic has also raised the appeal of the Brickline’s half-dozen specially designed live-work dwellings.
“People are intrigued,” Soderwall said. “They’re watching and waiting.”
Includes a city-funded garage
The five-story Brickline and its 42,000 square feet of ground-level retail space wrap around a city-funded $15 million parking structure with 720 stalls. Apartment-dwellers will have dibs on leasing parking spots, but the city garage will be open to the public, Soderwall said.
The city also is paying $9 million in infrastructure costs. In all, that first phase of the broader redevelopment carries an estimated price tag of about $115 million.
Hines, which will own and operate the mostly private-funded apartment complex, is working with investment partner Cresset-Diversified qualified opportunity zone fund.
Other Brickline amenities include a co-working lounge, fitness center, pet park and outdoor pool with grilling areas.
The project is next on deck in the expanding lineup of market-rate apartment complexes opening or proposed in and around the urban core.
Among others, to be built in part with a boost from public tax-increment financing:
- An $82 million apartment complex with 330 market-rate units proposed southeast of 48th and Dodge Streets is to incorporate the landmark Pittman veterinary services structure at 4629 Dodge St.
- A $44 million residential and commercial project northwest of Saddle Creek Road and Pacific Street is to include a 195-unit market-rate apartment complex on the southeast corner of 49th Avenue and Mayberry Street.
- The $35 million Dizzy Mule project in Millwork Commons district of north downtown is to create 172 market-rate apartments along with retail and art space.
- The 107 Little Bohemia apartments are nearing completion at the southeast corner of 12th and William Streets.
- A $62 million apartment complex with 255 dwellings proposed northeast of 72nd and Grover Streets is to rise on the site of the former CoCo Key hotel and water park resort.
The Brickline apartments and street-level restaurants (poised to open in 2023) will constitute the first completed piece of an ambitious plan announced in 2017, a year after Conagra downsized its Omaha operation and relocated its corporate offices to Chicago.
Conagra then tapped Hines to lead redevelopment of the roughly 23 downtown acres it no longer needed.
Timber office building, more housing to come
The broader vision, to be done in phases, called for nine new structures containing 500,000 square feet of office space, more than 80,000 square feet of retail space, a boutique hotel and about 900 new residences.
A hallmark of the plan, as laid out early on, was a two-block-long plaza extending Harney Street from 10th Street to the Heartland of America lake. It was to be lined with new housing, restaurants, offices and green space — creating what the developer described as a 24-7 live work and play community.
In updating the plan, Soderwall told the Nebraska Examiner that the next building after the Brickline likely will be an office structure made largely of modern mass timber, a new-to-Omaha construction product. (Noddle Cos. also proposes to build a timber office and retail structure in north downtown and said if that rises according to plan yet this year, it would be the city’s first timber commercial structure in modern times.)
Hines is seeking an anchor tenant before starting its T3 building (which stands for timber, technology and talent) that likely would rise six or seven levels and span up to 250,000 square feet, Soderwall said.
The office property likely would be east of the Brickline and Eighth Street, between Farnam and Harney Streets. Hines has built similar T3 buildings in other cities.
Soderwall said details and timeline for the remainder of the Mercantile redevelopment are flexible and will depend on market demand.
However, he anticipates that a hotel might be among the next buildings and could sprout on the southeast corner of 10th and Harney Streets.
The master plan contemplates a residential tower on the west side of the lake, but Soderwall said those dwellings most likely would be apartments rather than for-sale condos.
“The more attractive investment type has been apartments,” Soderwall said. “As you look at metros across the U.S., it’s what people want.”
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