Lawn of the proposed park in north downtown Omaha’s Builders District, oriented toward a giant video screen and stage. (Courtesy of Noddle Cos.)

This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.

OMAHA — In the works for downtown Omaha is another park, a privately owned but publicly accessible entertainment space expected to help lure residents to the developing Builder’s District that’s anchored by Kiewit Corp.

The Square, as it is referred to in city documents, would cover about 1.4 acres southeast of 17th and Cuming Streets.

To start, the park site would feature a grassy lawn oriented toward a giant movie screen and a stage for outdoor live performances. It would have a bike and walk pathway.

A bike and walk path would go through the proposed park in the Builders District. (Courtesy of Noddle Cos.)

A future phase is to include a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, perhaps a dog park. Trees and landscaping would be plentiful, and all would be surrounded by fencing to create a controlled environment that allows alcohol consumption.

If all goes as planned for developer Noddle Cos., the urban park would start forming this spring — and be a fun selling point in attracting businesses and residential dwellers to the Builder’s District, whose investment at full buildout in several years is expected to surpass $400 million.

“This is a catalyst for the neighborhood,” said Sam Noddle of Noddle Cos. “It’ll go up simultaneously with the 1501 Mike Fahey office building … and hopefully make leasing space a whole lot easier.”

Already at the district is the $90 million corporate offices for Kiewit Corp., which opened in 2021.

The 1501 building, estimated to cost $57 million and span 115,000 square feet, is underway and has the distinction, area real estate experts say, of being the city’s first timber commercial structure in modern times.

Still envisioned for the Builder’s District, which spans about 12 city blocks, are future condos, apartments, a hotel and other enterprises.

Distinct from other parks?

The Omaha Planning Board on Wednesday is to hear Noddle Cos. request for a permit to allow the outdoor entertainment on the property at 724 N. 16th St.

The city planning staff has recommended approval subject to a handful of conditions, including a satisfactory coordination plan between the developer, city and Creighton University on an alignment for the bike trail. 

Hours of operation, according to planning documents, would potentially be 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The garden area outside a future restaurant space are part of proposed park in the north downtown Builders District. (Courtesy of Noddle Cos.)

Noddle Cos. currently seeks no public tax-increment financing or other subsidies for the park, but Sam Noddle left such requests open as a possibility for future phases.

In designing the Square with the help of a consultant, Sam Noddle said the development team looked at mixed-use districts and villages worldwide and also reviewed surrounding neighborhoods of Omaha.

The group wanted to complement but not replicate such amenities as the Millwork Commons’ outdoor skate park, the newly renovated Gene Leahy Mall’s playground areas or upcoming sand volleyball and pickleball areas at the Lewis and Clark Landing at the Riverfront.

Natural, simple

So, he said, the group dumped earlier thoughts for athletic courts and opted instead for more “natural” and “simple” features aimed at providing a “soft” gathering spot in the midst of a bustling and growing area.

Not far from the Builder’s District are major public amenities such as, to the east, the ballpark that’s home to the College World Series.

To the north is the Millwork Commons growing neighborhood of older historic buildings that target artists and entrepreneurs.

Creighton University has a growing presence in the area, as well.

As the Builder’s District fills in with office and residential uses, Noddle Cos. says it envisions the park as a north downtown central gathering place for movie nights on the lawn, picnicking and “relaxing under the trees.”

Southwest view of a park, more than an acre in size, at Burt Street between 17th and 16th Streets, is hoped to lure office and residential residents to the Builders District. Shown to the left is a future office structure. (Courtesy of Noddle Cos.)

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