March 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The days of building an office park in the suburbs are gone.

Companies in Omaha and across the country are picking up and moving to hip urban hubs of their respective cities, letting go of a long-standing notion that most of the nation’s workers want to work and live in slower, quieter areas of town, far away from the noise, crowds, and chaos of city life.

Today, as executives strive to attract tech-minded young professionals who want to work, shop, eat, and play in the same neighborhood, Omaha companies are increasingly mindful that a key way to do that is to relocate to some of the fastest-growing—and just plain coolest—areas of the city. Even if they were not in the suburbs before, corporations are seeing that relocating in the most popular areas of town is good business.

“People like urban,” says developer Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Companies, which is working with engineering and architecture firm HDR Inc. on building a new site for Kiewit Corp.’s new headquarters in north downtown Omaha. “It’s pretty hip, and it’s important for companies to be in walkable communities. They need to be able to retain their workforce and they want to be able to use their office environments as a working tool.”

The trend is so hot that even suburban areas are transforming into urban oases. OBI Creative will be an anchor tenant at the burgeoning Lumberyard District at 135th and Q streets. The six-block district includes an Eat Fit Go, First American Title Co., and Local Beer & Patio, and is attempting to attract young creatives and professionals.

Executives at OBI Creative, which is currently located near the popular Midtown Crossing, thought the area resembled more urban locations like Dundee or Benson yet was more convenient for their staff.

“The majority of our employees live west of 90th Street,” says Lana LeGrand, vice president—OBI leadership and operations. “At the same time, the location afforded us easy interstate access to serve our clients regardless of the location.”

The Lumberyard District was the perfect setting for an advertising agency, she says. 

“When we saw this area, not just the potential of the office space, but the vibe of the neighborhood, we felt we had found a location where our employees would thrive and our clients would love to visit,” LeGrand says.

And while HDR is helping other companies move, the architecture firm itself is moving its corporate headquarters from 84th Street and West Dodge Road to one of the most hip and bustling areas of the city—Aksarben Village—later this year. The new, 245,000 square-feet of office space will house retailers and employ more than 1,100 people. HDR opted to move because it had outgrown its longtime location and its executives’ desired to bring as many people as possible to the location. They also want to provide plenty of parking and entertainment amenities for workers and clients.

“I’m excited for our employees that we will be moving to a new headquarters by the end of this year,” HDR Chairman and CEO Eric Keen says. “It’s an exciting new chapter for us as we begin our second century here in Omaha.”

Rex Fischer, HDR’s senior vice president and corporate relations director, says Aksarben Village will “fit our needs and will serve us well into the future. We stand to be more effective in how our people work and collaborate…a modern headquarters stands to be an excellent recruiting tool.”

Kiewit’s new downtown location, which is expected to be ready as early as 2020, was chosen because of its closeness to Kiewit University, the company’s new training center. Noddle says company leaders were mindful of the move’s potential influence on north downtown.

“It’s full of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues, and this can only benefit those businesses,” he says. “Moving a major business in a community is one of the things leadership might think about. Others will follow, I think, as it will inspire other businesses to look very hard at that area where everything is growing.”

Adds Noddle, “The image of bringing 600 new, stable, and well-compensated jobs to north downtown can and will have a positive impact in that area.”

Noddle says Kiewit’s move to north downtown will help open up its current space in the growing Blackstone District, which has been booming in recent years. Young professionals will be more attracted to Omaha when they see there are diverse urban areas for them to work and live in.

“It’s very attractive to current and future employees,” he says. “They could go anywhere, but they will choose to come here.”

HDR’s headquarters under construction in Aksarben Village

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.