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$12 million land purchase by City of Omaha tied to planned North Omaha business park

land purchase.jpg
Posted at 12:42 PM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-12 13:42:48-04

OMAHA, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — Nebraska’s largest city is preparing to pay $12 million for a tract of land that would help fulfill a long-running effort to create an industrial business park in northeast Omaha.

A proposed purchase agreement for 67 acres near 14th and Locust Streets, on this week’s Omaha City Council agenda, offers scant detail about the purpose other than that it is for future economic development opportunities.

The proposal states that the property also would be used for “new street infrastructure” and “right of way.”

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said at least one key reason behind the deal is a future business park that — once built out and filled with manufacturers, distributors and other employers — is envisioned to bring hundreds of jobs to one of the most economically disadvantaged and employment-deprived areas of the state.

“This is a first step toward developing the business park in North Omaha,” Wayne said.

Two business parks anticipated

The Nebraska Legislature over the past two years set aside $90 million to develop at least one and perhaps two business parks in the North Omaha area within two miles of Eppley Airfield. The amount was allocated in the Nebraska Economic Recovery Act, which was approved in 2022 and updated in 2023.

The broader legislation called for investing roughly $400 million into distressed North and South Omaha neighborhoods, and one of the single biggest project amounts was directed to the business park venture. Wayne, a co-sponsor of the Economic Recovery Act, said the funds likely will cover two business park sites, though he said the second spot was not yet public.

Asked about the $12 million proposed real estate purchase, an aide to Mayor Jean Stothert said Monday that the city intends to partner with the still-to-be announced developer who would be awarded the state funds to develop a business park at that site.

Spokeswoman Carrie Murphy said the city also plans to add a north truck route to the designated truck route system that runs in and around north downtown, and that the new route will create an access road to the new park.

Currently owned by Enterprise Industrial Park LLC, the land under consideration is bounded by Locust Street on the south, Cornish Boulevard on the north, Carter Lake Shore Drive on the east and a western boundary that zags from 14th to 16th Streets. 

According to the proposed agreement with Enterprise representative Thomas Egan Jr., the deal is subject to a review and due diligence process by the city. It acknowledges environmental concerns due to the area’s past use as a railroad yard and a dump site for construction debris.

Rejected earlier

The swath of land has a somewhat storied past that includes being a burial site for parts of Jobbers Canyon when the vintage warehouse district was dismantled to make way for the ConAgra riverfront campus.

Another view of the property that sprawls over about 67 acres in northeast Omaha and is a potential site for a business park. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

Around 2012, under the administration of Mayor Jim Suttle, the City of Omaha eyed the site — then referred to as the Ames-Locust Industrial Park — as a potential home for companies that would get rare access to big industrial work space within a short drive from the city’s downtown commercial and residential district.

The city moved to seize the property through eminent domain before it struck a tentative deal with ownership that included Virgil Anderson of Anderson Excavating Co. 

According to Omaha World-Herald reports, the city in 2014, under the Stothert administration, backed out of that $1.9 million purchase agreement after projected costs of environmental cleanup and infrastructure demands surfaced.

The reported price tag of roughly $18 million for environmental remediation was beyond the $8.6 million the city had projected to spend on total redevelopment.

Then in 2019, a private entity led by Egan came into the picture, buying the land from the Anderson team for lease to outdoor storage and industrial users. Operations include a concrete crushing area and storage.

A sign this week at the property says that some space remains for lease.

Meanwhile, city and local Chamber of Commerce leaders continued to search elsewhere for an appropriate business park site that would be an economic generator for North Omaha.

Since the last time the city attempted to buy the land near 14th and Locust Streets, the city’s core has further developed with additional residences and the revamped trio of downtown parks. Under construction is the $600 million Mutual of Omaha business tower, which is tied to the multimillion-dollar planned Omaha streetcar route between downtown and midtown. 

Mixed-use areas such as the Builder’s District anchored by Kiewit Corp. and Millwork Commons arts and creatives-focused district have further developed north of downtown and closer to the proposed new business park.

And millions of dollars appropriated in the Economic Recovery Act have yet to be awarded to nonprofits and other organizations that, under the legislation, are to be selected by the Department of Economic Development to carry out various economic development projects in North and South Omaha neighborhoods.

Tuesday will be the council’s first reading of the proposed ordinance and purchase agreement; a final hearing and City Council vote is to be held July 25.



Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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