Tag Archives: condo

Our Forever Home

May 13, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The designing of this condo was 40 years in the making. The homeowners became friends with designer Marilyn Hansen in 1976, and began relying on her for advice on everything from furniture selection to roof shingle color for their home. In 2014, the homeowners decided it was time to downsize to a condominium. They turned to Hansen to not only help select the condo, but also to make it a place they would want to live for the rest of their lives.

The task fell on Hansen to integrate the “old” with the “new.” This meant figuring out how to fit the homeowners’ favorite pieces from their home into the condo without making everything feel crowded, which was not easy.

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Luckily for Hansen, the homeowners valued clever storage solutions and embraced her space-saving ideas such as an office tucked away behind what appears to be a hall linen closet. No space is wasted within this condo, allowing the homeowners to keep some of their favorite pieces from the previous home without giving the condo a cramped feeling.

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The condo exemplifies its design by having an open feel to it. Intricately laid floor tiles gently navigate the path from the foyer into the kitchen, and then right into the living room—which has carefully selected shades that allow a peek at the impressive view even when they are pulled down. The tile work was done by Hansen’s son, Peter. He also created the fireplace and was responsible for the tile work on the balcony. The balcony itself happens to be one of the homeowners’ favorite aspects of the renovation. The balcony tiles are laid in an unexpected, non-symmetrical way that suggests an artist was responsible.

“Marilyn can get it done right the first time,” the homeowners say, adding that Hansen also has an innate ability to select colors. Both homeowners admit being particular in their tastes, and appreciate Hansen’s ability to transform the condo into a place they’re happy to call home.

Neither homeowner wanted anything “trendy” within the condo, so Hansen was careful to stick with classic pieces that draw attention without being up-to-the-minute.

Hansen intentionally designed the lighting within the condo to be highly customizable. This way the homeowners would be satisfied whether they wanted an evening with soft lighting, a brightened ambiance, or something in-between. Along with the neutral color schemes, this gives the condo an overall welcoming feel.

“It’s all very livable,” the lady of the home says. “I like the easy maintenance.” Hansen and the homeowners were very forward-thinking in their planning, because the homeowners have no intention of moving again. Now that all the major renovation work is complete, only a few small tasks remain. The couple can reminisce and chuckle about the small bumps along the way. For instance, they almost bought a grey couch that Hansen found so appalling she affectionately dubbed it “Mouse.”  For now, the homeowners lounge on their non-grey couch and watch the sunset from their picturesque views from their forever home.   OmahaHome

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Making the Old New Again

November 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sherri and John Obermiller decided their new downtown condo reminded them too much of the suburbs.

They should know. The couple moved in 2011 from their five-bedroom, five-bathroom home in the white-picket-fence-lined neighborhoods off 180th St. and West Center Road to the eclectic, artsy downtown for a reason, and it wasn’t perfection and modernity.

Obermiller2“It was time to downsize and just get rid of stuff,” Sherri says. “Plus, this gave me an excuse not to do yard work anymore.”

The pair looked at five or six buildings before deciding the 902 Dodge Street condos were a natural fit for them. The building is located close enough to walk to yoga classes or sushi restaurants, but far enough from the bustle of the Old Market. “We don’t always like to be in the crowd, but we like to be near it,” Sherri says. “We enjoy being anonymous in a sea of people.”

An available condo on the fifth floor was too small and in need of a facelift, but the Obermillers saw its potential. Their first act as new owners? Asking their neighbor what amount of money it would take for him to move. Their new home instantly doubled in size.

To further construct their vision for the space, they enlisted the help of Stephanie Basham, principal designer and owner of Group One Interiors, and Don Stormberg, owner of Stormberg Construction. The couple rented and lived in a unit on the second floor of the building as Basham and Stormberg’s teams worked to renovate the condo to the Obermillers’ standards.

Obermiller3“It’s always challenging to work in a space that people are inhabiting during construction,” Basham says. “The Obermillers have a finely tuned sense of contemporary style and an appreciation for urban modernism. And to top that, John and Sherri value attention to detail, which is a dream for a designer.”

From using lime green as an accent color to matching the gray of the exposed concrete ceiling to the condo’s columns, the detailed design was inspired from the Obermillers’ travels to metropolises like New York City.

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To make the home feel larger, Basham took advantage of the high ceilings and crafted a floating translucent cloud above the kitchen island. The focal point of the home, the cloud creates a sense of separation between the kitchen and adjacent rooms without impeding the view. Local fabricators and installers used frosted acrylic to have the effect of tinted glass without the weight. This fixture is a personal favorite of the Obermillers.

“The cloud above and countertop below have the same steel lines, so they mirror one another,” Sherri says. “We strived for symmetry throughout our home.”

Following nearly a year of renovations, only the cherrywood cabinets in the kitchen remain in the now-2,400-square-foot condo.  An entire patio was removed; new floors and appliances were installed; iron-welded, artisan-crafted barn doors were mounted; and rooms were ornamented in furniture from as far away as Sweden. The result is a simple, contemporary design that’s entirely unique to the Obermillers.

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The Obermillers saw not only the potential of their condo but the value of the downtown area as well. While the CenturyLink Center was the major draw north of Dodge Street when the Obermillers first moved downtown, the area will soon be home to HDR’s high-rise headquarters and a collection of newly developed apartments, offices, and entertainment space.

“We are incredibly excited about this development and what’s next,” John says.

Obermiller6Embracing an urban lifestyle is a hot trend, yet the Obermillers aren’t concerned with following or setting trends. Instead, their new home serves as a space for them to reinvigorate their story together.

“We can walk to the trails by the pedestrian bridge or quickly go to the restaurants in the Old Market. It’s fun and incredible,” Sherri says. “It feels like we live in a much bigger city than what Omaha really is.”

When the Obermillers aren’t watching Nebraska sunsets melt behind the Woodman and First National from their building’s rooftop terrace, they enjoy a different view from their living room window. They look down onto the interstates weaving under and over themselves, roads looping and stretching in different directions. An image the Obermillers agree is beautiful. Just below the roads and between the urban sprawl of Omaha and Council Bluffs lies the river.

“We always thought at this point in our life we’d have a condo overlooking Lake Michigan,” John says. “Living happily next to the Missouri River in downtown Omaha? Well, that’s just the next
best thing.”

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A Family Downtown

December 9, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It helps to have an elevator.

Which is just what Kristin Brown tells friends and the curious whenever they ask how in the world she’s going to get that baby stroller and other infant paraphernalia into her home. “We always get the question, ‘How are you going to carry all the baby gear in from the car when living on the second floor?’” Brown says. “To their surprise, our response is ‘Do you have an elevator in your home?’

“It’s not any more difficult living off ground level to get groceries or gear inside. It’s quite easy, and not something that should discourage someone from living in a condo.”

Kristin and her husband, Scott, have been doing just that since 2007 when the couple moved into the Kimball Lofts at 15th and Jones streets.

They had figured that when they began their life together, it would be in a house: The kind with a yard and a driveway (and mowing and shoveling). They were suburbanites, after all. Both grew up in west Omaha, attending Millard North High School together before graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 

Their first search for a home brought them to the Dundee neighborhood. The Browns found a house they liked but waited too long to bid on it. It was snatched up by the next day. Soon thereafter, Kristin got Scott to join her on the Downtown Condo Living Tour. That took them to Kimball Lofts.

“Neither of us had spent much time Downtown, but we knew we loved city living,” Kristin says. “Within minutes of touring the Kimball Lofts building we could picture ourselves starting our lives there as a married couple.

“The minimalist lifestyle was most appealing. We knew we’d use every bit of space in our condo. And we love to travel, so being able to pick up and go without the responsibilities that came with a traditional home was important to us.”

Still, the Browns figured their downtown living was only meant for two—and not for children. Once a third Brown was added, they’d get a home with a yard. “We assumed that’s where we’d end up sooner rather than later,” Kristin says. Sooner came in 2014 with Kristin due to give birth to her first child, Brock,  in August. It wouldn’t be long until the 1,500 square feet they were sharing wouldn’t be enough.

They considered building on a lot in West Omaha, but without knowing how large their family would grow, found it difficult to commit to plans. They wanted something move-in ready. They found it across the hall in the largest condo in Kimball Lofts. Their neighbors had moved out. The Browns moved in. Now they had two bedrooms and gobs of entertaining space amid nearly 2,600 square feet.

“We decided to reevaluate our desires and what was important to us,” Kristin says.

The condo is ideal for entertaining. Natural light floods every room through tall windows inset into exposed exterior brick walls. The tops of young trees along 15th Street are visible and promise a dazzling palette come every fall.

Guests first enter a large kitchen featuring stainless steel appliances and a long stone countertop that seats six at bar stools. That flows into the living room and dining room, where the Browns have a table that can host 16 guests when it unfolds. Off the dining room is a small deck where Scott frequently grills. There’s a room for baby Brock and a spacious master bedroom. The ceiling is high and exposed throughout.

Kristin parks underground in a heated garage; Scott has a street-level stall in a gated lot. Their commute is almost nonexistent as both work downtown in sales, Scott at Gallup, Kristin with Pfizer.

“Not having to fight traffic day after day is a huge benefit,” she says.

Yes, there are space constraints. In their previous condo, Scott’s bikes—he rides regularly and competes in triathlons—were stored in the hallway. There’s room for them now in a closet, but today the baby stroller takes residence in the hallway. And the dryer is stacked atop the washer in their walk-in closet (at least there’s no trip to put away clean clothes).

But if they have to do with less stuff, they certainly have more stuff to do. The Browns are outside more often, perhaps, than their suburban counterparts with yards. From their condo, Scott can hit trails that take him through Iowa on the Wabash Trace or to Fort Calhoun. They walk downtown frequently—to the pedestrian bridge or throughout the Old Market. And quite frequently to dinner.

“Being able to walk out our front door to the best restaurants in Omaha is a huge perk,” Kristin says. “And everyone knows everyone. There’s nothing better than going to the local market or our favorite restaurant or coffee shop and being greeted by our first name.”

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The Greenhouse is why Marge Tilton stays downtown.

January 16, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s a chilly Wednesday evening in Downtown Omaha, and Marge Tilton is just coming home from a yoga class. It’s been a busy day for the 86-year-old personal assistant. While the temperature decreases and the Old Market’s hustle and bustle continues outside her building, Tilton sits in her warm loft in The Greenhouse without hearing a peep.

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“Years ago,” she recalls, “there was a big sign on this building that read ‘If you lived here, you’d be home by now.’ That intrigued me, and so I decided to check it out.”

Tilton’s one bedroom, 720-square-foot loft boasts an open floor plan with a washer-dryer and access to an underground garage. Each loft is unique in its own way with high ceilings and exposed brick and piping. Sizes of the lofts range from 625 square feet to 1120. The building also features a fitness center and a security and intercom system. Most impressive though is its location across ConAgra Foods’ Downtown campus, a feature that has attracted an eclectic mix of residents from grad students to retirees.

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“I feel like I don’t have to go out to be part of the action,” Tilton says. “I can just open my blinds, and it’s all right here. I feel like I’m a part of Downtown.”

Assistant Manager Mary Whittington says many of the building’s tenants share Tilton’s views on the property’s prime location. “It is in the middle of the Old Market,” she says. “For retired people, it gives them kind of a young feel, and for grad students, it’s the location that appeals to them as well.”

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The lofts occupy the former McKesson-Robbins Warehouse on 9th and Farnam streets. It’s one of the few remnants of Jobbers Canyon, an industrial and warehouse district that solidified Omaha as a central hub for the transportation boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Also known as Nash Block, the nine-story, Renaissance Revival-style structure itself was designed by Thomas Rogers Kimball, the architect-in-chief of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. Kimball also designed such extraordinary Omaha structures as the St. Cecilia Cathedral, the St. Francis Cabrini Church, and the Downtown Omaha Public Library. Construction of the McKesson-Robbins Warehouse was funded by Catherine B. Nash—one of Omaha’s wealthy elite—and completed around 1905.

Tilton adores the history of the building and especially likes the way it was renovated to make lofts in the 1980s. These condos still have some of the best views in Omaha of Downtown and the Riverfront. Tilton takes advantage of that view every New Year’s Eve when she hosts a small party in her loft. She and her guests are able to watch the fireworks from the comfort of her fourth-floor space.

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The parties shouldn’t be too much of a problem for other residents. “A lot of older buildings, especially warehouses, have very thin walls, and you can hear everything,” she says. “But I’ve never had a problem with noise since I’ve lived here.”

If she ever had an issue, Tilton says she is confident that management would take care of it right away. The responsive management, coupled with the sights of one of Omaha’s most alluring districts, is exactly why Tilton has lived in the Greenhouse for so long.

“I couldn’t be happier here,” she says. “Fourteen years later, I still get excited when I pull into the garage.”

Peggy Pawloski

December 6, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“This is all I own,” Peggy Pawloski says, encompassing her 1,000-square-foot condo in the 1101 Jackson building with a sweep of her hand. The owner of LeWonderment, a gift store in the Old Market for children and dogs, shares the studio with her 8-year-old black standard Schnauzer, Isabella Rose. “She’s lovely in the store,” Pawloski brags affectionately. “She’s great with kids.”

The studio doesn’t have many options for lounging, but Pawloski loves to cuddle with Izzy on an enormous sectional facing the eastern windows. Even with the windows open, the quiet is remarkable and the view of the Loess Hills is stunning. “When I’m sitting here reading,” she says, “I can see all the airplanes taking off.” Living on the top floor means she can hear the rain sing on the building’s tin roof. She loves it, especially because her bedroom is a loft up a short flight of stairs, bringing her even closer to the sound.

The loft space is just large enough for her bed (that and the buttery leather sectional are the only two pieces of furniture she moved into the studio with) and a walk-in closet, complete with a compact washer/dryer. She keeps dishes and plates in a sideboard because she doesn’t have cupboards. She purchased the sideboard and the wall unit in the living area from IKEA. “I really have stripped down what I own and what I value,” Pawloski says. “It’s almost minimalist.” She laughs, knowing she’ll never quite reach that because of her love of books. During her previous career with Scholastic in New York, she had a collection of 3,000 children’s books.

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The fairytale quality of children’s art and literature might be evident in the look of her shop, but her condo is all bold colors and simple silhouettes. A large abstract piece from internationally renowned local artist Steve Joy hangs above the sectional, and a Mid-Century womb chair and bar stools keep the studio’s feel sparse but colorful. The dining table and chairs are identical to ones found on the set of Mad Men.

Pawloski’s international travels with Scholastic enabled her to collect posters and art from around the world, which now hang in the dining and kitchen areas. “It’s the right change,” she says of her much more stationary life. “It’s the next metamorphosis.”

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She calls her current routine living the dream: She gets up, walks the dog, and then she and Izzy go to work. They open LeWonderment just one block away at 11 a.m., and the two of them are there till 9 p.m., selling children’s books, dog treats, and helping clients design the perfect playroom through Pawloski’s latest venture, Play+Room by LeWonderment.

Pawloski’s daughter, Amy, and her son, Jason, are on the board of directors for the French-inspired gift shop, and her two granddaughters come work in the shop on weekends. She says she feels like the fairy godmother: “I have a charming life because of all the people involved in it.”

Cozily Chic

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From the corner of her sunroom in the historic Mercer Hotel on 11th and Howard streets, Bonnie Leonhardt can see another of the six places she’s lived in downtown since 1985. “Houses scare me,” she says by way of explaining her affinity for condo living. “I like having all the people around me. You don’t even have to know them; just having them around is nice.”

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The sunroom is part of a patio she had covered about five years ago. “Now it’s where we spend all our time,” she says, referring to husband Gail and her menagerie consisting of Henri the poodle, and cats Sophie and Xena. “It’s wonderful for fireworks, and my grandkids love it when it rains.”

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The Mercer Hotel condo is one of three downtown places Bonnie and Gail have renovated over the years. They moved in 10 years ago after someone asked if they’d sell their half-block-long condo in the old Howard Street Tavern. “We loved that place; I had no intention of ever selling,” Gail says. “But my wife blurted out this huge figure, and he said okay. I about fell out of my chair.”

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Never fear, the Leonhardts have effortlessly instilled their joie de vivre into their current home. Every square inch of the renovated condo is charmingly utilized. Orchids, amaryllis, and paperwhites color the sunroom, cozy conversation areas pepper the common room, and the white walls and open layout keep the overall feel airy. No decorator is called in, “it’s just me,” Bonnie says, though she confesses that if she brings one more thing into the place, “I’ll be a star on Hoarders.” Chairs in particular are her weakness, as proven by the Louis Ghost chairs around a small dining table by the open kitchen. Gail approves of her selections. In general. “She has good taste in everything but wine,” he says.

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The couple took out the too-tight lighthouse staircase up to the second floor in favor of one with a looser spiral and wider steps. An office, bathroom, and bedroom are sectioned off with their own doors, adding a new level of privacy the previously wide-open loft lacked.

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The main changes to the downstairs are hardwood floors in place of carpeting and losing the galley layout of the kitchen. “I didn’t want to be in the kitchen by myself anymore,” Bonnie says. Now guests can chat with the chef over a simple island—a slab of marble atop a small Bombay chest. The marble is Carrara, she thinks. “I have chemo brain, and it’s just not coming to me.” Bonnie was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in April of 2012, prompting her to retire as a realtor from Pitney Bowes.

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She and Gail, CEO of North Central Rehabilitation, do still entertain a lot, though the gatherings these days are mostly small groups of very close friends. “People come in and say the place looks so European,” Bonnie notes. “French, they say, but I don’t know. Let’s call it Early Junque.”

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The description works only because an air of casual welcome pervades the look of downtown chic. It’s the type of place where you might arrive in Louboutin stilettos only to kick them off in a few minutes because you know it’s all right.

When is the Right Time for a Family Pet?

August 16, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

So you just had kids. During the first couple years of raising toddlers, you were under a lot of stress and had a fairly unpredictable schedule. But now that they’re in school, you’ve gotten into a comfortable routine—breakfast, take the kids to school, go to work, pick the kids up from school, eat dinner, go to bed. It’s about this time that you might be thinking, “Hey, we should get a family pet!”

But how do you know if a pet is a good idea? And what kind of pet should you get to fit your family’s lifestyle? Well, there are actually several things to consider before adding a pet to your family.

The first is whether or not you have time you can devote to a pet. “Time is the best judge,” says Cathy Guinane, training and behavior coordinator with the Nebraska Humane Society, who works with owners of new pets regularly. “A family has to have time for an animal. They can’t be gone all the time.”

Guinane, herself, adopted four dogs—three terrier mixes and one poodle mix—and personally prefers to get pets in the summer. “It’s easier to potty-train a puppy or younger dog when the weather is nice. [And] more people are outside in the summer, so there’s more time for walks.”

“The answer is different for each family,” adds Tera Bruegger, director and adoption coordinator with Hearts United for Animals, a no-kill shelter, sanctuary, and animal welfare organization in Auburn, Neb. “One time that can be difficult, however, is around the holidays.” Bruegger says that holiday preparations, leaving town, and constantly having guests over aren’t beneficial to the transition of adding a pet to the family because there’s not enough time to establish a routine.

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“A lot of thought and discussion should go into this life-changing decision,” explains Bruegger. Feeding, grooming, exercise, medical expenses, your home—all of these things must be considered before taking on a new pet.

Always evaluate your home before getting a pet. Do you have a house or a condo that you’ve bought, or are you renting an apartment?

If you have a permanent residence, you’re in pretty good shape. (If you have a yard, that’s even better, especially if you’re thinking about getting a dog.) You’ll just have to get used to the idea of your pet possibly destroying wood floors and carpet, scratching doors and cabinetry, and chewing furniture. But hey, you’ve had kids. You’ve already accepted the fact that your house will show some wear and tear, right?

If you’re renting, however, you’ll want to check with your landlord because you might not be allowed to have a pet; and if you are, there are often breed and weight restrictions, as well as pet deposits and monthly fees. Apartments are getting a lot better about allowing pets, but adopting a giant Great Dane might be better if you held off until you have a permanent residence.

The big one, though, is whether or not you can afford to own a pet. Purchasing and adopting both cost at least a couple hundred dollars, depending on the breed and age. Then, there’s spaying and neutering, which are highly recommended by vets. Don’t forget licensing, rabies shots, and annual check-ups and vaccines. And just like kids, always keep in mind that there could be a medical emergency, like a broken leg.

So what kind of pet is best for your family? Well, that depends on your schedule and whether or not you’re looking for a long-term companion for your family.

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Smaller animals—fish, birds, reptiles, rodents—require much less time, space, and interaction than a cat or dog. “They’re good for teaching kids responsibility,” says Guinane. In fact, if you’re not sure about whether your family is ready to handle the responsibility of a larger pet, it might be good to start with one of these. Beware, though. These pets have shorter lifespans and may upset younger kids when they die.

With a cat or dog, more time and effort is needed. Both animals crave interaction, whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, playing with toys, or simple petting.

Cats are the more independent of the two, explains Guinane. Although they do still need some attention, cats won’t feel the same sense of abandonment a dog will if your family is out of the house a lot. Cats do, however, require a litter box (unless you train your cat to go outside or in the toilet), which will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Also, most cats don’t do well with roughhousing.

“If you’re looking for a quieter pet that is fairly easy to take care of, cats can make great companions,” says Bruegger.

On the other hand, dogs are very playful and make great family companions. “A dog will love everyone and can handle the activities of an active household,” says Guinane. Not to mention, if you have children who are physically disabled, a dog can provide extra support.

“Dogs can bring so much happiness to a home,” Bruegger adds.  “Some people believe you live longer with dogs, as you are happier, and you may be healthier since you may get more exercise walking the dog.”

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Age is also something to think about with cats and dogs. Kittens and puppies are fragile and require training, but they’re also much more social. “They can grow up with the kids and the activity of the household,” says Guinane. The problem? “They get into everything and chew a lot!”

With an older cat or dog, you have the luxury of only having to train the animal to get used to your home, as they already know basic commands and are potty-trained. “They may be a bit more laid-back or have less energy, which can be appealing to many people,” explains Bruegger. Just make sure you choose an older pet wisely because some of them may not have been around kids before. Usually, animals that haven’t been around small kids find them frightening because their movements are so fast and unpredictable, which can be especially hard on an older animal.

“[An older animal] may also have more health issues,” adds Guinane. “They may not be as game to play and be touched when they don’t feel well.”

Nevertheless, whatever type and age of animal you choose for your new family pet, both Guinane and Bruegger recommend that you adopt from a shelter or rescue instead of going to a pet store.

“Animals at shelters need a home,” says Guinane. “Sometimes, they just need another chance.” The Nebraska Humane Society works closely with people looking to adopt and tries to find the best possible match, depending on personality types, lifestyle, and location restraints.

Hearts United for Animals has a similar process, though they take it a step farther by doing a home visit before selecting matches. “Adopting from a shelter or rescue means you’re not supporting puppy mills [with] inhumane conditions…For many, the thought of providing a home to an animal that needs one fills their hearts with joy, and the bond built with a rescue pet can be second to none.”

Apartment Construction

May 25, 2013 by
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.”

Italian Contemporary in the SoMa Lofts

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was the Old Market specifically that sold Ros Mercio into moving to Omaha from Buffalo, N.Y. “It has a nice vibe and restaurants and art and culture,” she says. “It was just cool.”

Mercio settled into one of the 15 SoMa lofts at 11th and Leavenworth streets in December 2011, scaling down from a large house with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a den. “I’m an empty nester,” she explains, “and I didn’t want to take care of a house, and I knew I wanted to be downtown.”20130326_bs_9165

Friends in Toronto had inspired her to try the condo lifestyle for herself. “I wanted to get away from managing a lawn,” she says, “and I don’t have to drive on the weekends. I can walk everywhere.” She has about a 20-minute drive to her job as director of sales at Journal Broadcast Group in West Omaha.

Her SoMa loft is nestled back in a quiet courtyard, past the community garden with its once-a-week wine tastings. The nearby railroad can cause some noise, but she’s used to it. She shares the 1,050-square-foot condo with Tessa, a tiny, gray-and-white rescue cat from Buffalo. They’ve been together for three years, and Mercio says she still couldn’t say exactly who rescued whom.20130326_bs_9196

Something else that’s made several moves with Mercio is one particular framed photo of her family’s farm in Tuscany. She has uncles and cousins there whom she visits every year. “It’s my happy place,” she says, noting that her favorite times to go are in May or September.

Of course, the trips make it easy to supplement her contemporary Italian décor. Carnival masks from Venice decorate the entertainment center, the light fixture in the bathroom is Venetian glass, and the blue-glass plates on the dining table are also Italian. But don’t be fooled. Though the table has a contemporary Italian look, it’s actually from Nebraska Furniture Mart along with the rest of the condo’s furnishings.20130326_bs_9185

Aside from new furniture, Mercio only made a couple changes to the loft when she moved in. Local designer CKF put granite and quartz countertops in the kitchen and marble in the bathroom, as well as a stainless-steel backsplash behind the kitchen sink. Mercio laughs and says the stainless steel shows water stains like mad. She says she knew it was impractical but couldn’t get it out of her head after she saw it in the showroom. “Every time I look at it, it makes me happy,” she confesses. “I don’t have any regrets.”

The kitchen includes an island with a stovetop and Jenn-Air range hood. Mercio says it’s just one more example of the extra thought the developers put into the SoMa Lofts. After having built three homes of her own, she says she knows what it looks like when someone’s cut corners. “It’s a solid feel,” she says. “You don’t hear people walking around. It doesn’t feel like an apartment.”20130326_bs_9169

Though she does love to entertain, she admits she doesn’t use the kitchen to its fullest because “that’s the thing about living downtown…I find myself eating out more.” Mercio doesn’t particularly have a favorite, but she does like walking to J’s on Jackson by herself. “But they know me at Stokes; they know me at Ahmad’s.”

The floorplan of the condo is small but open. The high ceilings and lots of windows keep the overall feel airy, set off with muted blues and grays. Mercio compliments the developers with making great use of the space with clever cabinets everywhere. The only area that she’s contemplating renovating is an odd workspace nook in the condo’s entrance. It looks ready to house a 10-year-old desktop computer. “That was the only thing I think they missed on,” she muses. She plans to expand the empty, dimly lit square to add on to her pantry, which currently houses a modest collection of shoes instead of cereal boxes.20130326_bs_9208

She does have an extra storage room down the hall, in addition to her double, heated garage. “You don’t realize how important it is until you have one,” she says with a laugh. “They did a lot of little extra things that maybe other builders wouldn’t have done.”

Every once in awhile, she’ll see a larger condo and wonder why she didn’t opt for more space, “but then I remember the whole point was to simplify my life.”

jLofts on the Market

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nestled among the quaint brick buildings in the heart of Omaha’s Historic Old Market sits a modern building made of glass and concrete on the corner of 13th and Jackson streets. jLofts on the Market are upscale condos that first went on the market in the spring of 2009, and according to Sandi Downing, the listing agent for the lofts, have been in high demand.

One of the major selling points of the condos is that new owners get to select the finishing touches: everything from the style of hardwood floors to the granite countertops. Downing says the newness of the building, amenities, and concierge services set it apart from other residences in the Old Market. Every loft has a balcony, high-end Bosch appliances, and large walk-in closets. And in a part of town where parking is scarce, the climate-controlled parking garage is a revelation.20130401_bs_9653_Web

The concierge services at jLofts are impressive. The property has a reception room on the main level with package delivery and reception. There are dry cleaning and laundry services available. They will check on your residence and walk your dog if needed. Shoe shine and repair, reservation booking, car washes and detailing, and valet parking are all part of the services provided. The building also boasts a fully-equipped fitness room.

This high standard of luxury comes with a price. The cheapest condo, at just over 850 sq. ft., starts at $239,000. The top-floor penthouses, with 14 ft. ceilings and more square footage than most houses—anywhere from 2,245 to over 5,000 sq. ft.—start at $750,000 and go up to $1,750,000.20130401_bs_9689_Web

Downing says that many people are drawn to the carefree lifestyle of loft living. There’s no yard work or maintenance. Plus, with a thriving social scene just blocks away, there’s always something to do. According to her, “More and more people are thinking of coming downtown,” and adds that the demographic for the building is all over the map: young and old, singles and couples, young professionals and retirees.

“A lot of things have happened in recent years in the Old Market…the Holland Center, the new stadium, the swim trials, to name a few. It’s an exciting time to live in the Old Market,” she says with a smile.20130401_bs_9686_Web

Diane Speck owns a condo at the jLofts and has resided there for almost four years. “I always loved the downtown location,” Speck says. She has lived in other downtown buildings, including The Riley Building, but was waiting for a place like her current loft to become available. She was looking for something in the Old Market that was new and provided the extensive amenities that the building offers.

“I don’t have to worry about a thing when I travel. I park my car in the garage, and I’m set,” Speck says. The concierge takes care of everything, she boasts, which provides her peace of mind.20130401_bs_9665_Web

The location is one of the major aspects that attracted her to jLofts. She is just a brief stroll from international cuisine, bars, two grocers, and the arts and entertainment district.

“Everything I need is right here within walking distance,” Speck says, adding, “I never would have made an investment of this caliber at a different location.”