Changes coming to Boys Town's landscape

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- A big chunk of land, owned by Boys Town for a century has a potential buyer. Boys Town decided some time ago that it has enough room to accommodate the continued growth and expansion of Father Flanagan's work. It's keeping the land to the southeast of 144th and West Dodge Road, but selling the land to the southwest of that major intersection and and that is prime real estate.

There's certainly a lot in store for the farmland right next to Millard North High School, smack dab in the middle of west Omaha. Now this project is still just in the planning stages but another project right next door had a ground-breaking Thursday. It’s the first step in years of growth and change.

“This is for your guys. This is the future,” said Pastor Thomas Bauwens.

The future started Thursday for Pastor Thomas Bauwens and the students at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church & School. Led by Omaha's Archbishop, St. Wenceslaus broke ground on the first phase of a five year, $26 million expansion project making more room for a rapidly growing number of students and church members.

“A huge amount of growth. It means we're going to get even more parishioners going to our parish. We're at 3,000 families now, That's 10,000 members. We have outgrown the church.

Thursday's ground-breaking is just one of a landslide of development deals in-the-works for this area. Soon, open fields next to the church will transform into Omaha's latest and largest development.

“We're just starting the planning process now. We call it visioning,” said Noodle.

President and CEO of Noddle Companies, Jay Noddle is the man behind the nearly billion dollar plans to turn nearly 500 acres of farm ground, formerly owned by Boys Town and the Demarco family, into a sprawling urban campus, combining offices with restaurants, retail and residential space.

“You can really think about it as the development of a small city within the city,” said Noodle.

Before Boys Town sold its share of this valuable stretch of land, it attached restrictions which prevent these fields from turning into bars and limiting the number of restaurants that serve alcohol. Still, some neighboring homeowners like Nona Green have concerns.

“Seventeen years of peace and now wondering, should I move,” said Green.

Green bought her house next to the Boys Town farmland nearly 20 years ago because of the peace and quiet. Now, with these picturesque fields headed for development, Green and her neighbors wonder what those plans mean for them.

“What am I going to get stuck with? There's at least 30-40 feet of green space with ornamental trees - are they going to tear that up? Am I going to have a road behind my house? Am I going to have a tall building with people staring down into my backyard?” asked Green.

One of Nona Green's concerns is a beautiful strip of trees directly behind her house which runs the entire length of the Boys Town field. She hopes those trees don't get torn down. WOWT 6 News asked Jay Noddle his thoughts on the trees; he said he'd like to keep them.

This is all happening because of Applied Underwriters, a local company which is part of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio, wanted to build their new headquarters out here. They bid on the land, got it and don't need all the space for themselves so they're opening up the rest for development.