Tag Archives: commercial

The Best of All Worlds

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Let’s dispense with the references to a certain ’70s sitcom right off the bat. Yes, Jennifer and Bryan Yannone are the parents of a blended family of six kids. Yes, Bryan is project director for Lockwood Development and Bloomfield Custom Homes, a position with some surface similarities to the architecture job of his TV dad counterpart. And, yes, the Yannones are a telegenic couple with a warm, relaxed vibe.

But their new home, the first in Sterling Ridge at 132nd and Pacific in Omaha, represents more than just the union of two families. It is the convergence of several decidedly 21st-century ideas about diversity, work-life balance, smart-home technology, and the logistics of new urban planning in an already very established part of the city.Bryan-4_web

Sterling Ridge is a mixed-use development of commercial, residential, retail, and religious space. When completed, the 153-acre site will feature more than 700,000 square feet of office space, 30 high-end custom homes, 10 villas, retail, restaurants, an assisted living facility, a hotel, and the Tri-Faith Initiative: a collaboration of Temple Israel, The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, and The American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture.

The very location of the site signifies this spirit of inclusiveness. It was once home to the venerable Highland Country Club, established in 1924 as a club where Jewish members would be welcome. (Highland changed hands in the 1990s and the newly-named Ironwood shuttered and was sold to Lockwood Development at a bank auction in 2010.)Bryan-12_web

In a city that is constantly expanding to points west, north, and south, the central location also acts as an integration point for several parts of town.

This was especially important to the Yannones, who had children in two separate school districts. “There was nowhere in Midtown Omaha where you could build a new, custom home without having to knock down an existing home,” says Jennifer, a gifted and talented facilitator for Omaha Public Schools.

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As members of the community and because of their family association with the development company, the Yannones are particularly sensitive to the historical and civic importance of the property. “People were disappointed when Ironwood closed,” Jennifer acknowledges. “Lockwood wanted to make this development worth the sacrifice. For every tree they took down, they planted five more. They spared no expense to provide a community feel.”

Inside the seven-bedroom, 5,700-square-foot Yannone home, that communal sense is most keenly felt in the open kitchen, dining, and seating area that serves as the focal point of the family’s activities. “We spend most of our time between these three rooms,” says Jennifer of the multi-functional space which features clean lines and cool, neutral colors. “I wanted it to look contemporary, but still homey and livable.”

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The family worked with Lisa Shrager of LMK Concepts and Megan Bret of Exquisite Finishes on the home’s interiors. “The trick was making the home durable and low-maintenance without compromising style,” says Shrager. She achieved the family’s desired blend of a sleek look and a warm vibe by balancing hard, manmade surfaces like the kitchen backsplash comprised of multiple metals including stainless steel and bronze, with natural materials like stained rich oak wood on the cabinetry and granite countertops.

This harmony reverbates around the room: a mantle of 12×24-inch tile acts as a horizontal counterpoint to the strong vertical presence of the fireplace itself. This is geometrically echoed in light, linear tiling that serves as bridge between the three sections of the main family space and on the flooring and walls throughout the home.


The children picked their own colors, themes, and bedding for their rooms: a Husker motif for the youngest, Brayden Yannone (9); sports for the two middle boys, Baylen Yannone (11) and Drew Gibbons (12); music and guitar for the eldest boy, Luke Gibbons (14); and inspiring quotes for Jennifer’s daughter, Michaela Gibbons (17). Her older daughter, Jessica Gibbons (21), lives away at college but has claimed a room on the lower level for school breaks.

The Mediterranean-inspired exterior of the home, which also serves as a model for Bloomfield Custom Homes, was Bryan’s idea. Its sand-colored stucco and stone ediface, crowned by hipped roofs, envelops an open, road-facing courtyard and would not be out of place among the revival mansions of Pasadena. “I wanted a home that was a vacation.”

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Before they could kick back and enjoy, the family had to educate themselves about the various “smart” features of their home, most of which, including cameras, garage doors, lights, and music, can be operated from an iPad. “When you walk out the door, there’s an off button. You can shut off the whole house!” Jennifer says with glee. “Before we moved in, we had to take the kids around, ‘This is how you shut off the lights…’”

And while the Yannone-Gibbons clan is clearly having fun with the more dazzling features of their new stomping grounds (such as the time Michaela called Jennifer from downstairs to tell her it was too warm and Jennifer “fixed it” without leaving the comfort of her sofa), their parents are careful to keep them grounded.


“They all think we live in a mansion,” Jennifer laughs. “But we remind them that we’re blessed to have this. When school’s out, we do a lot of volunteering, like at the Open Door Mission.”

“With the house came new responsibilities,” says Bryan. “It’s a group effort to keep a house this size, but the children have become very efficient about it.”

It’s a synthesis formula that the businesses, other families, and spiritual communities of Sterling Ridge would do well to copy. As Jennifer puts it, “We all pitch in and take care of what we have.”

For more information on this unique mixed-use development, visit sterlingridge.com.

The Light Palace/A Well Dressed Window

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

United Electric, a longtime, family-owned retailer of home lighting and accessories in Omaha, has expanded into window coverings with the acquisition of another veteran interiors retailer, A Well Dressed Window, formerly in Rockbrook Village. Both businesses now operate out of The Light Palace, UE’s showroom in southwest Omaha, serving both residential and commercial clients.

“For years, we’ve helped customers choose their interior and exterior lighting. Now, we can help customers control the natural light that flows into their home,” says Luz Vasques, UE’s marketing director. “Window coverings not only help to prevent sun glare and provide extra privacy but also help maintain the colors of your carpet and furniture and can help with energy efficiency.” And much like lighting, the right window treatments can completely change the look of a room, she adds. “These two businesses greatly complement each other.”

At 10,000 sq. ft., The Light Palace is one of the largest home interiors showrooms in the Midwest, featuring chandeliers, bathroom lighting, outdoor lighting, ceiling fans, and home décor, including artwork, cabinetry hardware, electric fireplaces, and more. The Well Dressed Window gallery features a wide selection of designer blinds, shades, and shutters, as well as valances. It is one of just two Hunter Douglas galleries in the Omaha area.

Staff can also assist customers with selection of custom draperies, stationary panels, cornices, furniture upholstery, bedding, and pillows. Design consultations are free.

“Our experienced, well-trained staff will take into account your unique lifestyle needs as well as your budget,” says Vasques. “We can guide you and take the guesswork out of selecting your lighting products and window coverings. A high level of customer service is our No. 1 goal.”

The Light Palace/A Well Dressed Window
4532 S. 132nd St.
402-334-5331
lightpalace.com

Q&A: Jared Gerber

Photography by Bill Sitzmann, Kent Behrens, and Tom Kessler

Inspired by design from a young age, Jared Gerber knew early on he was destined to go into architecture. Today, he makes his living helping homeowners design custom living spaces that not only reflect their personalities, but also fit their natural environment.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you first come to discover your love of building design?

A: I think the architecture seed was first planted while I was growing up in Virginia. We would take school field trips to Colonial Williamsburg, and I found myself more interested in the architecture of historic buildings than anything else. I really enjoyed studying the aspects that make a building unique—the setting, the form, the details…and trying to discern the things I liked and disliked about a particular building. These experiences also gave me an appreciation for historic preservation.Ascott-07_Web

Q: Where did you receive your education and training in architecture? How did you end up in Omaha?

A: My family eventually moved to Nebraska, and I went to high school in Fairbury. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I decided to take a break and found a job working at an architectural firm specializing in churches in Charlotte, N.C. I loved being two hours from both the beach and the mountains, but I missed the four seasons and my family, so after a couple of years I decided to move back to get my master’s from UNL. Immediately after graduation, I found a job in Omaha. I’ve been here ever since.

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Q: Tell us a bit about your firm. Do you specialize in any niche of architecture or price range? What do you enjoy most about what you do?

A: I founded Gerber Architecture, PC in 2005. I started as a commercial architect but gravitated to the residential side after designing my first house project. I soon discovered that residential design is very rewarding because it has such a direct, personal effect on a client’s everyday life. Today, about 90 percent of my work is residential. I’ve designed a wide range of projects, from simple room remodels to multi-million-dollar additions and remodels to new-construction homes. I enjoy the design phase the most, as that’s the time when the creativity is flowing and there’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy with a project. I also enjoy the beauty of working with different clients. Each homeowner collaboration—discussing their wants, needs, and ideas—creates a house that is truly distinctive, and each offers different problems and solutions. And although most of the drawings are done on the computer now, I still enjoy doing the initial schematic drawings by hand.810-09_Web

Q: Tell us about one of your favorite projects. What challenges and rewards did it offer?

A: One of my favorites was a new house that I designed on a beautiful 40-acre lot south of town that was full of bur oak trees and teeming with wildlife. With a large acreage, you not only design the residence…the creativity extends to the broader view of the site, the approach of the house. Siting the house can be the most difficult task…the vegetation, views, sun patterns, and topography are all factors the homeowner will live with every day. In this case, there was an open, flat area that initially appeared the best placement option. However, after further analysis, pushing [the residence] back to a spot nestled within some trees gave the house a feeling like it belonged…as if it grew out of the site. The finished house is not huge—less than 3,000 finished square feet—but it’s the siting of the house, the quality of the spaces, and the craftsmanship of the details that reflect the homeowners’ personality and make it a great project. The house was featured on the AIA [American Institute of Architects] Omaha Home Tour a couple years ago, and I’m still getting feedback from attendees on how much they appreciated the house.Wehrbein-02_Web

Q: Tell us a bit about you personally. Family, associations, and interests outside of work?

A: My wife, Kristine, and I have been married for almost 24 years. We have two boys—Creighton, a sophomore at Augustana in Sioux Falls, S.D., studying archeology, and Drew, a junior at Westside High School. We enjoy traveling, touring houses, and trying out new restaurants. I’m currently on the board for AIA Omaha and help organize various events for our membership. Interacting with my fellow architects helps keep me updated on changes going on both locally and nationally. I’m also a bit of a beer aficionado and enjoy some of the local and regional craft beers and the monthly home brewer’s club at the German-American Society. I’m a former athlete and a huge football fan and often take in a Husker game with my boys.

Retail Centers

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Malone & Co.

For some of the Omaha area’s newest and most cutting-edge retail developments, 2012 was a successful year during a time when the national economic climate was still uncertain, and 2013 is so far looking good, say representatives.

“Both shopping centers had solid sales performances overall for 2012 and the 2012 holiday season, and of course, some retailers reported considerable sales increases compared to last year,” says Kim Jones, marketing director for both Shadow Lake Towne Center, located at 72nd Street and Highway 370 in Papillion, and Village Pointe, located at 168th Street and West Dodge Road in Omaha. The two developments are managed and leased by RED Development, based in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Both centers welcomed new tenants in 2012. And we will be making announcements for both properties soon. There’s a great interest in both shopping centers and that just means that retail is certainly coming back after we’ve had some leaner years during the recession.”

“If we look at year-over-year sales development-wide, we saw retail sales up 12 percent. I think our retailers will tell you, they’re happy and cautiously optimistic about the future, given the trend lines,” says Molly Skold, marketing director for Midtown Crossing in the Turner Park area near 33rd and Farnam streets. “Our anchor tenants are also doing well. Wohlner’s (Grocery and Deli) was up 31 percent in March, year-over-year, and Element, Marcus, and Prairie Life have all seen double-digit growth.

“Our condo sales are doing extremely well also. From January to April 2013, we have had 18 new contracts; that’s a 63 percent increase, year-over-year, from 2012.”

Regarding plans for 2013, Skold adds: “We currently have two letters of intent from potential retail tenants. Tenants looking at our development are service-type tenants and specialty stores. And we have an olive oil concept store, Chef Squared, opening in June.”

The 2012 retail year wasn’t without its challenges. One retail sector that has struggled somewhat is apparel, Skold reports, and its performance has slightly modified the outlook for Midtown Crossing’s development.

“The apparel industry nationwide has performed lower than expectations. In 2012, we actually saw one of our apparel stores close its doors, a national chain,” she says. “The apparel industry is opening fewer and fewer stores nationwide. We would have thought that, at this point, we’d have more boutiques or apparel stores.”

“Having community ties is very important to us because we want to make sure that our community knows that we’re invested and that we want to serve them beyond just providing great retail.” – Kim Jones, marketing director with Shadow Lake Towne Center and Village Pointe

However, the apparel sector may be gaining some steam in 2013, Skold says. “Currently, we have five apparel retailers interested in specific spaces—doing drawings, looking at plans, expansions, etc. We are encouraged by the activity.”

Another ongoing concern in the retail industry is that online shopping, which continues to grow, may funnel away sales from its tangible counterpart—shopping centers and freestanding stores. Jones says, however, that there is plenty of room for both channels. “While online sales are certainly not going away, you can continue to see lots of brick-and-mortar and online retailing in concert together, so it’s really just giving the shopper more of an advantage,” she says.

Both Skold and Jones say some of the success of their respective developments lies in how they are structured to reach beyond merely retail services to support a lifestyle and serve as neighborhoods in and of themselves.

“The lifestyle center is currently predominant, but you’ll see it evolve in what kind of tenants it brings in. In some cases, it will hybridize. For example, Shadow Lake is a hybrid with the power center, which is on the perimeter with the big boxes, while the lifestyle center is on the main street,” Jones explains. “So together they offer a different kind of shopping center for Papillion and the community beyond.”

Skold says Midtown Crossing’s growth and development centered around four anchors, with restaurants and retailers developing out next, and service providers coming onboard more recently to round out the development as it passes 90 percent occupancy.

“Those last 10 percent of types of retailers we’ll be looking for are those service-type of stores that really will be providing services and products to our guests and visitors and residents alike,” Skold says, adding that 2012 events and activities, including the new holiday celebration Miracle on Farnam and the summer Architects of Air exhibit, add to Midtown Crossing’s ambiance and image. “I think we have moved from development to a neighborhood,” she says. “I think we have met our goal of Midtown becoming a destination rather than a pass-through.”

Midtown Crossing will also open The Pavilion at Turner Park, which will provide a permanent stage and infrastructure to the center, ideal to host many entertainment and shopping events on the grounds and predicted to draw many new shoppers. “The Pavilion is a stunning addition to Omaha’s Turner Park,” Skold says. “Omahans are in for truly amazing treat!” The structure is scheduled to be complete by the first Jazz on the Green concert July 11th.

Creating community spirit is also an important part of Village Pointe’s and Shadow Lake Towne Center’s identities, Jones says.

“Having community ties is very important to us because we want to make sure that our community knows that we’re invested and that we want to serve them beyond just providing great retail,” Jones explains. “We want to be a place where they come even if they’re not going to shop. It may be to enjoy one of the concerts during one of our concert series or an event that’s going on like a charity walk or something of that nature, or various attractions we have throughout the year. So while they’re retail centers, we also like to consider them community centers.”

Apartment Construction

Photography by Bill Sitzmann, Thom Neese, and Malone & Co.

When it comes to looking for the perfect apartment, bigger is not always better…or affordable. And with the main demographic of apartment dwellers in Omaha being Generation Y—those ranging in age from 22 to 27 years-old—they are making their feelings known and developers are listening.

Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development, has been working in commercial real estate for nearly two decades and owns several apartment buildings, including The 9ines and Joslyn Lofts. He knows intimately the wants and needs of those looking for their next space to live.

Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development.

Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development.

“We have done condos, townhomes, row homes, historic renovations…” says Christensen, “but our focus right now is on apartments…all urban. Part of that is due to the market and part of it is due to our passion for apartments.” While the Old Market has been for years the go-to location for urban living, Christensen says that things are changing, especially with the development of Midtown Crossing. “Basically, anything east of I-680 are projects that we look at.”

With his primary customers being Generation Y, Christensen says that price is a big concern. “To make [these spaces] affordable, you’ve got to work hard on floor plans.” He explains that most developers today are designing smaller floor plans because, not only are they more reasonably priced, but “people are heading toward a no-waste type of living.”

“When you look at how homes were developed 15 years ago, you really only utilize 60 percent of your home on a daily basis. The other 40 percent you’re paying for, but not really utilizing it. It’s the same thing with apartments.”

Combine this with the fact that fewer people are living with roommates, these highly sought-after urban apartments are becoming more accessible to people who, a few years ago, could only dream of living in these locations.31273_0279_Web

Jerry Banks, portfolio director of real estate for NewStreet Properties, LLC, also works with developing and remodeling apartments, as well as retail and office spaces. The Omaha-based company owns properties all over the country, including Tiburon View and Huntington Park Apartments in Omaha,. While NewStreet does not develop urban locations and his tenants tend to range from 20- and 30-somethings to empty nesters, Banks says that his tenants are also looking for scaled-down floor plans. “We’re seeing more and more trends toward smaller units, both in studios and one bedrooms.”

Safety and security is another big focus of his tenants, says Banks. “That’s always been and will continue to be a very important renter requirement…very high on the list.”

To meet the demands of his residents, Banks says that NewStreet has been actively addressing a variety of security concerns, including changing all exterior lighting to brighter, more efficient LED bulbs, as well as implementing new, fully automated locks for all their apartments.

Banks refers to the possible security breach of buildings that have master keys or by former residents who may have had copies of keys made in the past. “None of our apartments have a master key of any type…we’ve de-mastered 100 percent of all the locks on all of our properties.” Each key is also tracked by a bar code, allowing the property owner to know who has borrowed a key and when that key was returned.31294_0219_Web

“We put a real emphasis on safety and security for our residents,” says Banks. “These are just some things that most residents don’t see and think about but just take for granted.”

Both Christensen and Banks say that their tenants are looking for convenience and ways to make their lives easier. Fitness facilities, both indoor and outdoor, as well as pet-friendly spaces and amenities, fire pits, and plenty of grilling areas for entertaining are options that NewStreet is providing to their residents.

Bluestone is exploring the options of adding a hot yoga studio, as well as the possibility of shared gaming rooms and a community kitchen that may provide cooking lessons and opportunities for socializing.

Both Christensen and Banks say that customer service is their main priority. “Going forward, everyone is going to have to look at their operation and see how they can deliver outrageous service,” says Christensen. “Because that’s what our customers get when they go to other places. They go to Starbucks…they go to Urban Outfitters…they get outrageous service. They can expect that service where they live.”

Strict Banking Requirements

Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Great Western Bank

With interest rates having been at all-time lows for over a year and forecast to remain at record lows for the foreseeable future, it’s likely that either you or someone you know has refinanced their home recently. But does the same hold true for commercial building owners? Have business owners and those with commercial leases been able to take advantage of such low rates? Have entrepreneurs seeking new loans been able to set their dreams in motion, even in these tough economic times?

According to Gary Grote, Omaha group president for Great Western Bank, while commercial loans may not have been impacted by the low rates as much as residential loans have, there still has been a significant effect in the commercial market.

“The difference between residential and commercial is that in the commercial loans…there may be pre-payment penalties that apply until the maturity day,” explains Grote. “So you can’t always just pick up the phone and…refinance on a whim like with a residential mortgage.” He does add that though it may not be as “easy” to refinance a commercial loan, “many people have already taken advantage of the low rates…and we continue to see opportunities.”

Craig Lefler, senior vice president and manager of commercial banking with Mutual of Omaha Bank, agrees with Grote, saying while there may be a few more obstacles for commercial loans to be refinanced, there are still ample opportunities for businesses to seek lower interest rates on existing loans. “A lot of commercial real estate loans are done by banks on a five-year type of basis and some of those, depending on the bank, may have a penalty for early payoff. That would certainly be a consideration for [when it comes to the] cost of refinancing the loan.”

“The difference between residential and commercial is that in the commercial loans…there may be pre-payment penalties that apply until the maturity day.” – Gary Grote, Great Western Bank

Both Grote and Lefler say that although rates are at historic lows and there are many opportunities available for commercial loans to be granted as well as refinanced, the process and underwriting standards are higher than ever.

“After the financial crisis, credit certainly tightened up and [banks] returned to more prudent, conventional underwriting standards,” says Grote.

Lefler agrees that there are more stringent standards and more in-depth analyses today than in the past. However, those are countered by the benefit of lower interest rates. “It’s a mixed bag,” he says.

Interest rates for commercial spaces are different than those for residential mortgages. Grote explains that the typical five-year loan originated from the trouble that the Savings and Loans went through in the 1980s. The S&Ls offered CDs for two to four years at fixed rates. They then would loan money at fixed rates for 10- or 15-year loans. “When the rates went up, they got burned because their cost of money increased but their loans were at a fixed rate.”

He shares that banks typically keep five-year commercial loans on their balance sheets while traditional home mortgages are sold off to other organizations.

“A lot of commercial real estate loans are done by banks on a five-year type of basis and…depending on the bank, may have a penalty for early payoff. That would certainly be a consideration for [when it comes to the] cost of refinancing the loan.” – Craig Lefler, Mutual of Omaha Bank

As another option, Grote says that some banks, such as Great Western, may offer certain clients 10– and 15-year fixed rates. But he says that this is a unique situation.

Thirdly, he shares that the Small Business Administration has a popular product called the SBA 504 Program, in which a portion of the loan allows the borrower to do a 10- or 20-year fixed rate. “So there are options out there, and it just kind of depends on the property and the borrower and where they’re at in their life cycle and what makes the most sense for them.”

Depending on whether the loan is for owner-occupied real estate or investor real estate, Grote explains that the lender will underwrite the occupant’s financial statements or the investor’s ability to rent space. Both men recommend that businesses have their financial records in order and ready to be submitted for review.

“Be organized and be able to quickly produce their financial statements in an organized fashion,” says Grote. “That helps banks respond quickly and be able to give good guidance and good answers.”

Lefler adds that, in addition to the financial records, the lender will also consider “the projection, going forward, of how the space will be used and ultimately, from the lender’s point of view, will the debts get repaid.

“My sense is that there is a feeling that banks are not willing to lend money on new business ventures and to projects like this, but I would say that this is not true,” says Lefler. “In our market, which is stable, banks play an active role in these spaces on a daily basis.”

Educational Building Design

Photography by DLR Group

School buildings have come a long way from the stately, institutional structures of yesteryear. Today’s newest K-12 environments echo some of the best elements of commercial and residential design trends, say representatives of integrated design firm DLR Group.

“What we really see as far as trends are a lot of renovations, a lot of energy retrofits, and a big push for security measures as well,” says architect and DLR Group principal Pat Phelan, K-12 sector leader.Marysville-Getchell-High-School-Campus_Web

While established structures in longstanding neighborhoods undergo renovation and expansion, most of the new construction has been in elementary schools, says architect and DLR Group principal Mark Brim, K-12 designer. He adds that it’s a matter of numbers related to how school districts are structured, explaining that “for every high school you build, you’re going to be building three, maybe four, elementary schools and maybe two middle schools.”

One lesson learned from the past is planning for future expansion during new construction and major renovation, Phelan says. “With some of the older buildings that weren’t designed for expansion, those present some unique challenges, obviously.”

Brim adds: “We’ve had the opportunity to work with the rapidly growing districts here in the metro area. In those cases, the new buildings we were involved with, we did master-plan those to expand as enrollment increases.”IMG_8674_Web

District residents also have a vested interest in their school buildings, and today’s schools include spaces that can be adapted to serve the community for activities from public meetings to presentations and receptions. Of course, durability is also a consideration when it comes to school buildings with a life expectancy of 75 years or more.

“It’s selecting the right yarn type so the carpet will hold up, or high performance paint,” explains Melissa Spearman, DLR Group senior associate and interior designer leader.Creighton-Preparatory-School_Web

“A school is going to have a lot of traffic. It may not have a lot of money to fund a lot of maintenance,” Brim adds. “Energy efficiency is always a concern, but also sustainability with the push for green architecture, and not only on the energy side but also with use of more environmentally friendly materials and recycled materials.”

Spearman says function now drives form when school interiors are planned.

“We’re seeing how the teachers interact with the students or how the students can work in small groups, how different collaboration zones are set up, or how maybe they’re studying in common spaces and those are becoming more gathering spaces,” she says.Joplin-11th-&-12th-Grade-Interim-Campus_Web

“We’re really focusing more on the learning environment overall,” Phelan agrees. “That involves bringing natural light into as many spaces as we can, it means comfortable climate, it means transparency so students are more engaged in what’s going on in different spaces.”

Phelan explains that engagement elements range from wi-fi to adding more display areas for student works to considering environmental features evocative of where students naturally congregate, like the comfortable, portable seating in malls or coffee shops.

“We think that research supports the fact that the learning environment has an impact on the performance of students in the classroom. As a result, DLR Group has become the number-one K-12 firm in the country,” Phelan says. “That’s something that we take a lot of pride in, and we don’t rest on that; we know we have to continue to always look to the future, look to innovate, and listen to our clients.”

Adam DeVine

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Avalon Management

In Workaholics, the Comedy Central sitcom hit about three roommates/co-workers at a California telemarketing firm, actor Adam DeVine plays an immature, self-absorbed, funny 20-something without any direction. In real life, the former Omahan and Millard South grad, now living in L.A., seems much more motivated and mature than his character, though he’s definitely still after the laughs. Humor has gotten him through some tough times, as well as helped him with “the ladies.”

Just before entering middle school in 1995, DeVine was hit by a cement truck at Harrison and 144th streets, suffering severe injuries. “[Recovery] was tough…But I found out that if I was funny, girls would push me in my wheelchair to my next class. BOSS MOVES,” he jokes.

Later, while attending high school at MSHS (“Go Patriots!”), DeVine struggled with rejection in sports. “I wasn’t crazy-athletic. I tried out for the basketball team every year [and didn’t make it.] By senior year, the coach told me not to bother. I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny,” he says.

So DeVine threw himself into school activities like drama and student council, which allowed him to express his humorous side. As his performance and comedy skills grew, so did his ambitions. His drama teacher, Robin Baker, was instrumental in convincing DeVine’s parents to let him follow his dream to move to California to pursue an entertainment career. “She didn’t blink an eye and told my mom that it was a great idea and that she thought I had the chops to make it,” he remembers. “And she’s always encouraged me to write my own stuff and create my own content. Big ups, Mrs. Baker!”

 “I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny.”

One of DeVine’s big breaks was a national TV commercial for Taco Bell. “I came back to Omaha while it was airing, and I thought I was a superstar,” he says, laughing. More recently, he landed a small supporting role in the box-office hit Pitch Perfect, which garnered him a new league of female fans. (DeVine has to be happy about that.)

Landing Workaholics, however, which has been picked up for two more seasons, has definitely been his biggest role to date. And DeVine feels very lucky for it.

“The creative freedom I have on Workaholics is amazing,” he says. “I want to keep writing my own stuff, and I’ve been told it’s really hard to have this kind of freedom.”

DeVine, who comes back to Nebraska regularly to see friends and family (and occasionally catch a Husker game and grab a Runza, he says), is currently at work on a stand-up comedy/sketch hybrid show called House Party, also for Comedy Central. He and fellow Workaholics actors have written a movie as well, for which comedic actor Seth Rogen has signed on as a producer. “I couldn’t be more psyched. Seth is a great guy to learn from because he’s about my age, and he’s been through it all.”

When asked if there’s any downside to a booming career and fame, he answers, “Finding time to have a life and not working all the time…It’s good to stop, kiss my girlfriend, and call my mom every once in a while.

“Oh, and fake friends…Ya know, the people who would never be friends with me in a million years are suddenly like ‘Bro! What are you doing tonight?’” to which he typically responds, “Nothing with you, dude…I won’t fit in with your crew…I don’t have a fedora or a bedazzled shirt.”

Per usual, DeVine goes for the laugh.

Q&A: Rebecca Harding

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Omaha native and a principal with TACK Architects shares her passion for design, the people who inspire her, and the reasons she’s excited about working in her hometown.

Q: Tell us a bit about TACK Architects. What makes the firm unique?

A: We are an Omaha-based architectural studio founded in 2011 by Jeff Dolezal, Chris Houston, and myself. We’re a fairly young but tested firm, combining 45 years of experience between us. In that time, we’ve created thoughtful, unique projects, integrating our passion for detail and design. We work with a wide range of clients across the nation, providing works of architecture and interior design in the form of high-end residential, commercial, and cultural projects. TACK references a course of action, or method, in order to achieve a goal, especially one adopted through rigor and critical thinking. This is especially true of our work, where good design is a process that vets out and tests ideas. Our design philosophy explores notions or craft, tectonic expression, sustainability, and contextual specificity, while working hard to understand our client’s objectives, budget, expectations, culture, and mission.

Q: Where does the name “TACK” originate from?

A: We wanted to differentiate ourselves with something meaningful that referenced our work and disposition; something people would remember. Within the context of sailing, to “tack” means to change the direction of movement of the sail in order to maximize the benefit from the wind. We felt the term evoked a sense of freedom and determination. Leaving our comfortable corporate careers behind was scary, but exhilarating at the same time. The three of us have been friends and collaborators working on several projects together for over 10 years. We trusted each other’s talents and passion to build a company together at a pivotal time in all our lives.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue your career in Omaha?

A: Returning to Omaha in 1994, after receiving my Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University and traveling abroad over a six-year period, was a choice I made for several reasons. Omaha was at the inception of major architectural developments and making its mark as a changing and dynamic Midwestern city. The opportunity to begin my career with well-established architects was ripe and I was ready to reconnect with my roots. My time away from Nebraska and having the opportunity to study in places like Italy, Russia, and Scandinavia provided me with priceless educational experiences in different cultures and the ability to view works of art and architecture that have influenced me over the years. I returned to Omaha with an appreciation beyond my expectations. Omaha is a very special place where people are passionate and hardworking, with ethical beliefs in line with my own. As the city is in the process of expanding new redevelopment efforts, such as the Riverfront, Aksarben, and Downtown and North Omaha, I have the unique opportunity as an architect to help shape the future physical environments in and around Omaha that the next generations will enjoy for years to come.

From left: Ryan Henrickson, Rebecca Harding, Jeff Dolezal, and Chris Houston.

From left: Ryan Henrickson, Rebecca Harding, Jeff Dolezal, and Chris Houston.

Q: Any mentors that have influenced you? Other influences on your design tastes, methods?

A: My father is an oral surgeon and an amazing artist. As children, he used to show my sister and me some pretty gruesome slides of some of his surgeries. I was fascinated by how he could turn a mangled face back into something beautiful again. The precision with which he manipulated bone, muscle, and cartilage while controlling proportion and angles was magical. The combination of science and artistry was a concept I have been obsessed with since I can remember. The practice of architecture is very similar (although a life is not on the line). Other influences include Bauhaus architect, Le Corbusier, for his pure and streamlined designs in architecture and furniture; and Modernist architect, Sverre Fehn, for his sensitivity to context and beauty. Both of these elements can yield very diverse design solutions, but to me, they are very important to the foundations of architecture. It’s true that beauty is somewhat subjective, but beauty can be universal elements like proportion, scale, rhythm, etc. For me, it manifests itself in everything from a field of corn in the middle of summer (viewed from any elevation or angle), to the reflection of the sky in a puddle of water in the driveway.

Q: What are some trends you’re seeing in residential and/or commercial architectural design in Omaha?

A: When I first started practicing in Omaha 16 years ago, it was difficult to get clients to stretch out of their comfort zones. Reputation and trust comes from past projects and what you’re able to physically show the client that’s real. Most people have a hard time understanding abstract concepts or unusual materials until they see them, or can touch them. However, architecture isn’t just about design in the physical sense. We work with many clients on strategic facilities planning; where we help them make decisions on how much space they really need or can grow into. I think this type of service is what makes us really valuable, not just that we’re good designers but we also help people plan their projects and make good decisions at the beginning of the process. This planning works for most project types: residential, commercial, retail, corporate offices, etc. We definitely are seeing an upswing in the market right now.

Q: Tell us a bit about you personally. What do you enjoy in your leisure time?

A: I was born and raised in Omaha and attended Westside High School. I was a competitive figure skater up to about the age of 12. When I retired the skates, I took up many other sports and have continued to be active in my adult life. I enjoy running…Not only is it great exercise, it’s great therapy. The stresses of life and work seem to melt away with every step on the pavement. I hope to sign up for another marathon in 2013. I have been married to Brinker Harding for 13 years and have two daughters, Elizabeth (10) and Grace (7). I am truly blessed by them! They remind me what is really important in life—family, humility, love, joy.