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Some of you may have seen this article in this morning’s edition of the Omaha World Herald.  I requested and received permission to forward this copyrighted article to you...George

Old Western Electric land is getting a railroad -themed building, hotels, more

HERRERA ARCHITECTURE

This rendering shows Omaha Track’s future headquarters, which has space for the company’s rail cars to be pulled up for special events. The two-story building is modeled after a train station.

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Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 12:30 am

By Cindy Gonzalez / World-Herald staff writer

A burst of construction activity is adding another chapter to the rebirth of the former Western Electric campus in southwest Omaha.

Helping to freshen up the former plant site is a new headquarters for Omaha Track — a company that grew from a three-man landscaping crew 32 years ago to a railroad-related recycling enterprise operating in six states.

Rising on previously vacant land near 129th and I Streets, the 16,000-square-foot office building is designed to resemble a railroad depot. Its front yard will feature a railroad spur where vintage railroad business cars pull up to play host to dinner parties and company events.

Omaha Track President Terry Peterson has a hand in other changes going in the neighborhood as well. Among them:

Just across I Street, to the south, workers are building the first of two hotels that will bring 158 rooms and an investment of $15 million. That four-acre site was sold to a South Dakota-based hotelier by 132nd and F Development LLC, whose principals are Omaha Track’s Peterson and Millard Lumber’s Rick Russell.

Another 20 acres of undeveloped land behind Omaha Track and west of Millard Lumber is to be reshaped this summer. That redevelopment project is expected to bring an assortment of commercial ventures.

A new public street is to be built to serve those new merchants. It will snake through the 20 acres, which also are owned by the Peterson and Russell partnership.

Meanwhile, tenants have expanded in the existing 1.2 million-square-foot complex that once served as the anchor for Western Electric, and later went by names including Avaya, Connectivity Solutions and CommScope.

“It’s been great to see jobs come back,” said Ryan Zabrowski of Investors Realty, the listing agent for the anchor facility. “You add the hotels, an office building, and the area just continues to improve.”

When the Connectivity operation closed in 2011, the property’s new owner, California-based Industrial Realty Group, subdivided the anchor plant for use by multiple manufacturing and industrial tenants.

Today that facility is about 70 percent occupied, Zabrowski said. Most of the space is used by a company Zabrowski said he couldn’t identify because of lease restrictions.http://assets.newsinc.com/newsinconebyone.png?t=1436181480

Omaha Track builds new headquarters modeled after old railroad depot

Omaha World-Herald

Another key tenant is Kiewit Corp., which leases about 140,000 square feet for accounting and information technology functions. That’s triple the space Kiewit started with there in November 2012. Kiewit has about 800 employees at the site, said spokesman Thomas Janssen.

Next to Kiewit is Stillwater Insurance Group, which leases about 20,000 square feet.

The anchor plant is part of a sprawling campus now known as the Omaha Works Industrial Park — a tribute to the original Omaha Works of Western Electric. Tenants generally are north of I Street between 120th and 132nd Streets.

While the flurry of new construction is focused at the western end of I Street, the eastern end also is expecting growth.

DiVentures scuba and swim center, built in mid-2010 at 4303 S. 121st Plaza, is embarking on an expansion that will nearly double the capacity of the 12,000-square-foot facility, said co-founder Dean Hollis.

Hollis said DiVentures serves as a regional training center, and he is excited to see new hotels and services for its visitors.

The hotel under construction southeast of 132nd and I Streets is a 78-room Holiday Inn Express geared for shorter-term guests. As soon as that is finished, an 80-room Candlewood Suites targeting longer-term visitors is to be built next to it. Slowey Management of Yankton, South Dakota, is developing the two properties.

Said Hollis: “Any time we see additional businesses close by, we see benefits.”

When Western Electric opened in 1958, the campus spanned an even larger area and, at its peak, teemed with more than 7,000 of some of the city’s better-paying jobs. As technology progressed, and much of the communications equipment produced there became obsolete, large chunks of the facility were vacated.

Starting in 2002, the signature mile-long front lawn along L Street was sold off to mega retailers, including Sam’s Club and Home Depot.

Downsizing also had Comm-Scope selling to Millard Lumber the 600,000-square-foot original Western Electric cable plant and nearly 70 acres to the west.

Today Millard Lumber continues its major operation at 12900 I St.

Omaha Track in 2009 opened one of its wholly owned subsidiaries and its steel-sorting operation on about 20 of Russell’s 70 acres. Steel materials are stored on a huge concrete lot built originally to sustain heavy spools of cable. “It was perfect for us,” said Peterson.

He said he chose the Omaha Works campus for the new headquarters largely because the company already had that presence there.

Designed by Francisco Herrera of Herrera Architecture, the headquarters is shaping up as a two-story office building modeled after a train station. It will be home to about 40 of the company’s 230 employees.

Formerly known as the Tie Yard of Omaha, Omaha Track grew out of its current 4,000-square-foot headquarters at 8202 F St. about four years after it was built it in 1999, Peterson said. He said the company, whose revenue exceeds $100 million a year, also leases space in a second building and a trailer.

The new home base, he said, will allow all Omaha-based administrative staff to unite under one roof.

It also will allow the firm to display its private rail cars. They’ll be pulled up for special events. The cars are equipped with luxury sleeping areas where visiting clients might snooze.

Continuing its mission of recycling, the company will use reclaimed redwood and other materials to adorn the lobby of the $3 million headquarters.

“We wanted something different,” Peterson said. “We think it’s all going to be pretty cool.”

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