Barker Building Renovation

By: Gary Smollen Email
By: Gary Smollen Email

News of more development in downtown Omaha as the Barker Building renovation project officially kicked off on Thursday.

Built in 1929, the Barker has been shuttered for the past decade. Now, it is the latest old building to be re-tooled. But is there enough demand in the downtown area for more apartments?

You might remember the Wall Street Tower project that was to be built downtown. That site remains an empty lot with little hope of it changing in the near future. Many say Wall Street is the exception to the rule in downtown Omaha, which is, build it and they will come.

Developers may have to tweak their plans, but only a little. John Truesdell has lived in the downtown area for the past two years, though he had thought about making the move for a longer period of time. Work and entertainment interests finally convinced him that getting a place downtown was the right move.

"I used to live at 108th and Dodge, but it just made more sense to move down here. I work down here and hang out down here so I save myself on the commute."

John will soon have more company. It may not look like much now, but the Barker Building is expected to be a desirable address with 48 apartments on seven floors, ranging from about $1,000 to $1,500 a month for rent.

While the tough economy has hurt growth everywhere, the executive director of the Downtown Improvement District is encouraged by the continued development in the area.

"Wall Street Tower was one of the casualties of the economic decline, but we did see a continued growth in residential at that same time that project was lost," said Joe Gudenrath, who added the focus then was on condos. Today, developers are concentrating on apartments in the downtown area.

That's good news for John who feels downtown is a vibrant scene, but too many people can have a down side. "For the most part, the only complaint that I have really is the congestion from the traffic. There always seems to be construction going on downtown."

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