The Omaha City Council held a public hearing on a redevelopment agreement for Mutual of Omaha’s new downtown headquarters on Tuesday. The agreement lays out the exchange of properties between the city and the developers.
Under the redevelopment agreement, Lanoha Real Estate would acquire property at 215 S 15th Street, where W. Dale Clark Library currently sits. Mutual of Omaha’s new 800,000 square foot office tower would replace the library. The developers will also purchase the property directly to the east of the library.
Developer Jason Lanoha said beyond the “skyline-changing imagery,” the tower is an investment in downtown Omaha that will benefit the entire city.
“I am not aware of a single vibrant and growing American city that has a poor and declining downtown,” Lanoha said.
Projected costs for the office tower have gone up from $443 million to an estimated $600 million, which Lanoha said means a bigger investment for the city. The City Council approved a $68 million TIF loan for the project in March, which Lanoha said won’t change despite the increased costs.
In exchange for the library site, the city would acquire property at 14th and Dodge streets, the former site of Union Pacific’s headquarters. Mayor Jean Stothert’s Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Andersen said the city will have discussions in the future about developing the site.
The city will also acquire the parking facilities at Mutual of Omaha’s midtown campus, as well as own and operate the new 2,200-stall parking garage at the downtown office tower. Anderson said the city will lease out stalls to Mutual employees, and the garage will be open to the public outside of work hours.
Since Mayor Jean Stothert announced the development in January, opponents have raised concerns over transparency with the sale of the downtown library. Kimara Snipes said that the city of Omaha has lacked transparency.
“This whole process lacked real, proper, intentional, empathetic communication,” Snipes said.
Opponent Eric Oberg said the project was a “nakedly corrupt land grab.” He said Omahans want more public space like the existing library, especially the poor and homeless.
“Even if we assume the [new] downtown location will have adequate space for a conventional service population, we’re lying to ourselves if we think the downtown library has the exact same patrons as other branches,” Oberg said.
Councilmember Danny Begley, who voted against moving the downtown library, said the “ship has sailed” on the library, and they now need to move ahead. He said the project is a part of a lot of investment that’s coming into Omaha, including $370 million for North and South Omaha that was approved by the Legislature last month.
Councilmember Brinker Harding said the new office tower will be a “catalyst to spur further development,” especially along a proposed streetcar route. The streetcar, which would run from midtown to downtown, has passed approval from the city’s planning board. The City Council will vote on the streetcar at a future meeting.
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