by Dan Rafter
David Levy likes what he’s seen in the second half of this year: Commercial real estate sales, leases and development have all increased in Omaha.
And Levy, partner at the Omaha-based law firm Baird Holm, says that he only expects this activity to continue its rise as 2015 begins.
“Especially in the second half of this year, commercial activity seems to be picking up speed,” Levy said. “We are especially seeing quite a bit of new office development, especially in the suburban areas of the city. There’s been a lot of great revitalization activity in some of the mixed-use neighborhood commercial parts of the city.”
Omaha’s suburban office market is an especially strong one, Levy said.
Pent-up demand from companies that had put off expansion plans is fueling part of this growth, Levy said. Some of this increase comes, too, as a result of the country’s continuing economic recovery.
There’s a third factor, too. Levy says that there has been plenty of housing growth in the suburbs of Omaha. And that has set off a chain reaction.
“With more housing, traffic congestion is increasingly an issue in the suburbs,” Levy said. “That means that transit is becoming more important. Transit improvements, though, take time. Right now, congestion and a lack of enough public transit is driving some growth in the suburbs versus, say, downtown.”
This isn’t to say that downtown doesn’t boast its own commercial real estate strengths. The multi-family sector is thriving here. Office development in downtown is slower, Levy said, but the retail market here is solid.
“Omaha grows and changes at a fairly deliberate pace and in a fairly deliberate fashion,” Levy said. “That protects us or keeps us from both booms or busts in the extreme. Our labor force is very good. I think there is a strong sense of civic pride and civic vision, too, that keeps people pushing the city’s development forward even when the economy is not as good as we’d like.”