Large, mixed-use developments are taking hold all around the Omaha metro area.
A look across the city and surrounding communities reveals the real estate trend’s is growing in OPPD’s service territory. Some examples:
- Highlander – in north Omaha, along 30th Street, once home to the Pleasantview housing project – is supporting new growth.
- Capitol District, once a forgotten area north of downtown, is now home to concerts, baseball and basketball games, and other entertainment co-existing with urban dwellings and businesses.
- Midtown Crossing, Blackstone District and Aksarben Village give central Omaha has an abundance of entertainment and housing options.
- City Centre in La Vista is becoming an anchor for that community to create a destination spot.
West Farm, near 144th Street and West Dodge Road. Grading, paving and utility work are being done on the large development that sits on parts of land formerly owned by Boys Town that just last year was mostly covered with bean and corn fields.
“The mixed-use developments with the all-inclusive feel was something Omaha was trying to adopt 15 years ago,” said Sharyl McGuire, manager of Distribution Engineering Systems Improvement at OPPD. “Denver has a lot of this. Really, you are seeing it throughout the country.”
In the La Vista project, as in other “niche neighborhoods”, OPPD has played a vital role.
“The La Vista City Centre project represents the beginning of a new era for the 84th Street corridor in La Vista,” said La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig. “We are redeveloping a vital piece of our community and together we have been working to relocate existing transmission lines so the development could move forward. Without a doubt, the Omaha Public Power District has been an important partner in these projects.”
For OPPD, work for these projects touches multiple areas across the utility, from the initial planning and design to the account executives or the electrical service designers, who often act as liaisons between the client and the utility. The type of development dictates when and how OPPD becomes involved.
West Farm, Highlander and La Vista are all new sites, whereas others, like Blackstone and Capitol District, consist largely of older buildings that need to be renovated and existing infrastructure that must be modified and updated.
OPPD officials said each development presents its own obstacles. Locating transformer and metering equipment can be challenging in these niche neighborhoods, especially when electrical equipment competes for space the developer has earmarked for landscaping or building structures, according to Mark Pohl, supervisor of Land Management Siting & Records. A rule of thumb is the sooner the utility gets involved, the better.
“The developers and construction companies are looking for innovative solutions to accommodate their needs,” Pohl said.
These new developments must focus on future growth as they are built, and OPPD will put in extra conduits and make other considerations to allow for future expansion, Pohl said.
Steve Fanslau, director of Customer Service Governmental Infrastructure, described how and when OPPD gets involved:
It starts with the builders, developers or governmental entities contacting customer service about a new project. Customer service representatives attend concept and design meetings and bring back information to OPPD. The engineering team develops work order designs for OPPD’s backbone infrastructure.
The engineering department works with scheduling to determine the necessary timeframes for the work based off the designs and also with the supply chain management department to determine what products are needed. Once the work is ready to be done, lead utility coordinators work as project managers and inspectors on the site and stay involved as the project progresses, keeping OPPD’s interests in mind at all times and phases.
“There are a lot of moving parts and people involved with these large projects,” Pohl said. “There are sometimes timing issues involved and construction doesn’t always go in a nice, chronological order. But we work to find creative solutions to help facilitate the growth in these areas.”
For the communities, these developments mean more jobs, more diversions for fun and more living spaces. For OPPD, they bring new customers.
“We want our customers to be successful and have a positive experience with us so they can serve the needs of the greater community,” Pohl said.
And the next large-scale mixed-use development? Look no further than the very eastern edge of Omaha where there are plans to redevelop the ConAgra campus and surrounding areas. This includes opening access to the Missouri River under the Back to the River movement, which is also progressing across the river in Council Bluffs. Plans call to unify and make the whole riverfront area an appealing destination to live, work and play.