by Dan Rafter
With its latest development project, Noddle Companies is poised to transform the western half of Omaha, giving this slice of the city a new downtown on long-undeveloped land.
The project — known for now as the West Farm development — will rise from nearly 500 acres of undeveloped land just west of Omaha’s historic Boys Town site and the former DeMarco farm. Plans for the project, which have already received the needed municipal approvals, include a retail center, entertainment hub, food-and-dining plaza, lake, office campus and about 2,000 new homes, a mix of multi-family and single-family designs.
Jay Noddle, president and chief executive officer of Omaha’s Noddle Companies, the lead developer on the project, said that construction crews should begin moving dirt on the project by May. The goal is for crews to finish building the first facility — a new headquarters building for Berkshire Hathaway’s Applied Underwriters — by the third or fourth quarter of 2019.
It’s clear, then, that Noddle is thinking long-term with this project. It might take as many as 20 years to build out the entire development.
Noddle said that the opportunity presented by all that vacant land was too large to pass up.
“It is very rare that you find a site this size that is ag land,” Noddle said. “It is not a brownfield. It doesn’t have physical challenges. The infrastructure surrounding the site is essentially new and in great shape. The neighborhoods around the site are fully developed and are great neighborhoods. There aren’t a half-dozen places like this in America that present this kind of opportunity.”
In all, the project will include 2.3 million square feet of commercial space. Of this, 1.4 million will be office and 500,000 square feet will be devoted to retail. Plans call, too, for a hotel with 300 rooms, 1,500 apartments, more than 400 single-family homes and more than 100 townhouses.
The project will include an area known as the Village Square. This will serve as the center of the development. Noddle says that the Village Square will host musical performances, farmers markets, festivals and other community events. The Gateway park area will feature its own amphitheater and dining district, Noddle said.
For those interested in the active lifestyle? The project will feature walking and biking trails that Noddle says will be 14 feet wide.
Noddle said that talks are already underway with retail and office users. But he would not yet provide the names of tenants that Noddle Companies is targeting.
Noddle did say, though, that Omaha has seen enough commercial real estate growth in the last several years to attract national retailers that have not yet set up shop in the city. Noddle said that he expects this development to bring some of those new retailers to the city.
“We think we can attract the next round of first-to-market retailers to Omaha with this development,” Noddle said. “We also think that we will attract a lot of interest from office tenants. The office market in the western part of the metro area is very tight. This provides a location that is more infill than not that is also well-organized. The early conversations we have been having, with retail tenant reps, with home builders, multifamily developers and hotel reps has all been very favorable.”