Tag Archives: Holland Basham Architects

Pacific Life

April 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The site of Omaha’s old Knights of Aksarben complex—acres of once-busy thoroughbred horse racing and concert space turned albatross—has blossomed anew as the live-work-play destination spot known as Aksarben Village.

The booming mixed-use development is home to popular eateries, a movie theater, health club, and two colleges. This is part of why Pacific Life Insurance Company moved its regional business operations office from downtown to a new five-story building there in late 2015. The company’s Omaha office has grown from 250 to 450 workers since the blue-gray motif structure’s 2014 groundbreaking.

The gleaming, glass-fronted Holland Basham Architects design offers many creature comforts and inhabits prime real estate at 6750 Mercy Road.

The new digs provide a branded presence after a low-key profile at downtown’s Landmark Center.

Angela Greisen, Pacific Life assistant vice president for human resources, says, “We couldn’t have our name on the previous building in any big, visible way. We’d been in Omaha 12-plus years and people still didn’t know we were here.” That’s changed, she says, as events “bring thousands of people to the village and our new building with our big branding and signage is right there in the middle of everything.”

“That’s been huge for us. It’s also given us higher applicant flow because people now know we’re here and here to stay and we’re growing.”

Where many employees had to use off-site parking downtown, they now have an 850-stall covered garage. A heated, enclosed skybridge connects the building to the garage.

Greisen was part of a project team drawn from each Pacific Life business unit that polled employees about their likes and dislikes.

“The three most important things employees said they wanted were parking, amenities, and a nearby location with easy access,” she says.

Aksarben was the clear site choice. Pacific Life partnered with Magnum Development on the $33 million new build. The company occupies the second through fifth floors. Eateries and shops fill the ground floor.

“Staff response has been great,” Greisen says. “They love the parking, the amenities, the bright, airy feel of the building with the wide-open layout, natural lighting, and clean, modern finishes. Though we added only about 10,000 square feet, it’s organized much more efficiently.”

Each floor plan incorporates cutting-edge work spaces to enhance communication, team-building, workflow, and group projects via huddle spaces, conference rooms, and commons areas. She says, “Staff can seamlessly interface in real time with colleagues at other locations through videoconferencing, teleconferencing, and webinar technology.”

There’s a Wall Street trading-room floor look to the third floor internal wholesaling area. Flat-screen panels stream motivational performance messages and live market conditions to the sales desk floor.

In multiple areas, adjustable, stand-up work stations are available. Employees can indulge their freshly brewed beverage cravings at several Keurig stations.

The in-house Park View Cafe is a grab-your-own, pay-with-your-phone Company Kitchen model. The spacious room converts into a meeting-reception space with audio-video connectivity. A covered balcony offers a panoramic overlook of Stinson Park.

Though not green certified, the structure integrates many conservation features, including energy efficient windows, LED lighting, HVAC that is programmed to shut off when areas are unoccupied, low water usage restroom fixtures, and motion-sensor lighting.

Greisen says employees appreciate Aksarben Village’s warm welcome and plethora of things to do. Proximity is a big plus, too, as Pacific Life is an employer partner of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, whose south campus is in the village. As an employer partner, company representatives promote their job opportunites and participate in career fairs; staffers also speak to classes and conduct mock interviews when asked. Greisen hopes this partnership will grow.

“We expect an increase because we have a partnership with UNO, and now we are literally on the edge of their campus,” she says. “It’s very convenient. Increased visibility.  It gives us even more opportunities to partner with the university.”

This visibility, along with the popular amenities, could mean an increase in sought-after employees at Pacific Life in the near future.  And that can help secure Pacific Life’s future.

Visit  aksarbenvillage.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Rebirth of a Landmark

September 6, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The south side of Dundee is a piece of Americana from generations past. Early 20th-century homes with neatly manicured yards lining tranquil, tree-lined streets. A Norman Rockwell scene off the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

The Holland Basham Architects building, once the Beth El Synagogue, is the crown jewel of this thriving Midtown neighborhood. The massive 1938 Art Deco brick building commands an impressive, monumental presence. Awe-inspiring, vaulted ceilings. Clean lines. A front entrance with a towering arch atop a steep staircase. Abundant windows provide a shower of natural light.

The structure was designed by John and Alan McDonald, the renowned father-son architecture team that designed many of Omaha’s landmarks, including Joslyn Castle, Benson High School, and Joslyn Art Museum.

The Holland Basham firm was created in Tim Holland’s basement, where a single, pivotal project launched their business. They initially rented a downtown office. After seven years and a growing roster of clients, they needed more space. The current space is so large that they currently rent out space to some long-term clients, including the League of Women Voters.

Keith Basham says that in addition to more space, they were looking for something particular. “We didn’t want to be another generic architecture firm in a generic building.”

There were numerous obstacles to overcome in acquiring the space. When the firm first considered buying the historic structure, it was in shambles. Fortunately, restoring buildings is one of the team’s strengths. They had to overhaul the entire infrastructure. Because of zoning issues, turning the building into an office was a gargantuan effort. It required six months of work with the city of Omaha and the planning board.

There were also concerns about transforming a former synagogue into an office space. In addition to being respectful of the architecture, it was important to the firm that they respect the history and the religious relevance of the building. They reached out to the Jewish Federation and The Jewish Historic Society of Nebraska to accomplish this, even donating some the old lighting fixtures. They also gave the local synagogue damaged religious texts to be buried, the proper way to dispose of them according to Jewish law. This respect they showed earned support from religious leaders, who favored the building going to good use rather than being torn down, which was one of the proposals prior to the one presented by Holland and Basham. People all over the country still visit the building to pay homage and to remember important rites of passage that occurred there: weddings, bar mitzvahs, and bat mitzvahs.

Technology, sustainability, and thoughtful restoration are three concepts that drive the firm, Holland says. They played a key role in The Midtown Crossing project and restoring the Midtown area. Holland says such projects have a ripple effect, sparking reinvestment in the community.

They were among the first to get a 3-D printer and a drone to survey work sites. The choir room turned conference room boasts modern technology that allows for live work sessions across the globe.

Holland says that all those values are embodied in the building they now occupy.

“We wanted to create a space for ourselves that inspired,” he says. “We wanted a space that inspired clients.”

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DOI Gala

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Downtown Omaha Inc.

Since the founding of Downtown Omaha Inc. in 1967 as a nonprofit, privately funded corporation, the DOI has followed its mission statement “to inform, promote, and unite the downtown community.” Its ultimate goal: creating a world-class place for living, working, leisure, and the arts.

Its board is composed primarily of presidents and CEOs from downtown businesses, though everyone in the downtown area—from merchants to workers to residents—is encouraged to become involved in activities that make Downtown Omaha a better place. The Holiday Lights Festival, the Heartland Walk for Warmth, and the new Wayfinding project are just a few of the efforts supported by DOI that have created economic opportunities for area businesses, supported local charities, and spawned new traditions for countless Omahans.

Beginning in 1997, Downtown Omaha Inc. has recognized individuals, associations, and corporations in different categories for contributing to the growth of Downtown Omaha at its biannual Gala event. A list of past DOI Outstanding Achievement Winners reads like a “Who’s Who” of Omaha: Holland Performing Arts Center, Midtown Crossing, Hal Daub, River City Rodeo, and Joslyn Sculpture Garden, to name a few.

The DOI will recognize 2013 honorees at its Gala event held at the Downtown DoubleTree Hotel on January 26th. Winners include:

  • Architectural Planning – Don Prochaska of Old Market Place
  • Economic Development – America First Real Estate Group, DICON General Contractors, and Holland Basham Architects for the L14 Flats
  • Cultural Arts & Entertainment – Omaha Children’s Museum
  • Spirit of Community – Paula Steenson of Paula Presents!
  • Visionary Pioneer – Frank McGree of Goodwill
  • Special Events/Festivals – Bobby Mancuso for Taste of Omaha
  • Adaptive Reuse/Restoration – Scottish Rite

Award recipient Paula Steenson, owner of Paula Presents!, an event planning and graphic/web design firm based in Omaha, is an active member of the DOI, serving as vice president of the group and coordinator of this year’s Gala. She’s also reaped big rewards from being involved with the organization. “DOI has been a huge part of my professional life the last 15 years,” she says. “It’s given me the opportunity to meet and work with many of the people and businesses downtown and to grow my business.”

Aggie DeRozza serves as secretary on DOI’s Board and also has great things to say about her involvement: “I’ve been with Bass & Associates for the last 18 years and our company has been a member of DOI during the entire time. DOI is instrumental in bringing quality programs and networking to its members monthly. It is a wonderful networking opportunity for companies and you find that you are conducting business with many of the people you meet there.”

The theme for this year’s Gala is “Back to the ’50s,” and will feature ’50s music, a silent auction, a menu reminiscent of the ’50s, and Omaha Publications’ own Gil Cohen as emcee. A ’50s era costume contest will also be held with mystery judges. Proceeds from the event will support
Downtown Omaha Inc.’s future endeavors to help downtown businesses and organizations grow.

Speaking of the DOI Gala, DeRozza said, “It promises to be a fun event!”

The DOI Gala 2013 will take place at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1616 Dodge St., at 5:30 p.m. For more information about becoming an event sponsor, activities, or the organization, visit downtownomahainc.org or call 402-341-3700. Tickets are $75 each. RSVP no later than Jan. 22.