New restaurant to focus on wagyu burgers

Charred, a new burger spot from the owners of Omaha’s Dolce and Papillion’s Ollie and Hobbes, is coming to west Omaha.

A menu of wagyu burgers made from local meat will be the focus of the restaurant, which will open this spring at 1150 Sterling Ridge Drive, near 132nd and Pacific Streets.

A Facebook page and website are coming soon. The owners also run JTK in downtown Lincoln.

Health-focused Fresh Thyme – now open on West Maple – plans to be a ‘game changer’

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By Barbara Soderlin / World-Herald staff writer

Customers began lining up at 2 a.m. Wednesday to be among the first inside Omaha’s newest competitor in the ever-hotter grocery game.

Fast-growing Illinois chain Fresh Thyme opened its 40th store, the first in Omaha, Wednesday at 150th Street and West Maple Road.

Two other west Omaha stores are set: Locations will open shortly after the new year — maybe as soon as January — at 132nd Street and West Center Road, and near 175th Street and West Center Road in the Lakeside area, a store official told The World-Herald on Tuesday.

A fourth location is set for the Crossroads Mall redevelopment, but timing depends on that project moving forward.

Shoppers this week flooded the store’s Facebook page with comments. One shopper is “so glad for another health food store.” Another added, “You have no idea how excited we are!”

Ralston resident June Kowalewski, 35, is among those who say they can’t wait. A friend brings back a Fresh Thyme haul from a store in Lincoln that already has opened there, she said. A mortgage training supervisor at a credit union, Kowalewski does all the grocery shopping for herself and her boyfriend. She considers herself a loyal Hy-Vee customer who also shops at Costco and Walmart but is eager to try Fresh Thyme.

“I try to eat as healthy as I possibly can, but I also have food allergies,” she said. “One of the things that really brought me to Fresh Thyme is they’ve got really, really good prices. I want to say, in a nice way, that it’s like the Walmart of Whole Foods.”

She’s on the hunt for healthy ingredients for meals, adding: “That’s what people are looking for these days.”

The store caters to customers like Kowalewski who are looking to eat a healthful diet without spending a lot. It targets middle-income to upper-income areas, but not the highest-income neighborhoods.

What does Fresh Thyme sell that other stores don’t? Not much.

Other stores in Omaha also boast low prices on produce, offer large produce sections including organics, make sausage in-house, carry a wide range of specialty and bulk foods, and stock natural beauty and household goods.

What distinguishes Fresh Thyme is the depth of variety in specialty foods, how merchandise is displayed, and what the store doesn’t carry.

Fresh Thyme rips the most popular pages from its competitors’ playbooks, then leaves out most national-brand processed food like Pepsi and Doritos, and flips its store footprint around so the produce section is right in the middle.

This strategy pays off — produce makes up nearly a third of Fresh Thyme’s sales volume, compared with about 10 percent at a typical supermarket. Its meat, prepared foods and “natural living” departments also see outsized sales.

That could heighten competition among other groceries as consumer shopping habits evolve. A new report made public this week at grocery industry group FMI’s annual conference played up the importance of produce in the grocery business. The group’s Power of Produce report concluded that produce is a top draw that can persuade shoppers to switch stores and that alternative-format stores like Fresh Thyme are luring younger customers, who may then fulfill the rest of their grocery list while they’re at it.

But industry consultant David Livingston cautioned that Fresh Thyme’s model is yet unproven. He lumps the chain in with others like Natural Grocers, which has Omaha locations, and the Fresh Market, which closed unprofitable stores this year after it was sold to a private-equity firm.

These stores typically have much lower sales per square foot than upscale competitors Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Livingston said. He estimates Fresh Thyme weekly sales at a typical store at $250,000, compared with $500,000 and up at the others.

“There’s going to be some shakeout,” he said. “They’re building a lot of stores really fast without ever testing out the concept to see if it works.”

Privately held Fresh Thyme does not disclose its sales. Its investors include Meijer, the privately held Michigan supermarket operator. The chain launched in 2014 under the leadership of former executives from Sunflower Farmers Market, a Phoenix chain that merged with Sprouts Farmers Markets.

It has plans to open 20 to 25 stores a year, for a total of 150 across the Midwest in the next four years, and may look to an initial public offering a few years down the road.

Livingston, a location expert, said Fresh Thyme is picking “B” rather than “A” locations for its many stores, based on traffic and demographics.

One of its new locations, for example, was home to an aging No Frills store.

Director of Operations Greg Hamm doesn’t dispute that but says Fresh Thyme stores are a success.

“We go into areas where we’re told somebody else was there and it didn’t work out,” he said. “Well, it works out for us. Customers are really excited about who we are as a company.”

He also said the chain is OK with lower margins and is willing to make a quick nickel over a slow dime, while moving large amounts of volume.

A growing private-label lineup will help keep prices low while boosting margins, he said.

The first Omaha store is in the new West Grayhawk retail development, along the fast-growing West Maple Road corridor, where signs advertise “For Lease,” “Available Space” and “Retail Coming Soon.”

Despite the strip mall vibe outside, the store takes on a trendy farmhouse feel inside. Check stand light fixtures are fashioned with galvanized metal and mason jars.

Workers on Tuesday readied the store for a flood of customers who appear eager to give it a chance. Workers tied up bouquets of balloons, stacked cartons of raspberries, arranged pears in a pyramid, and lined up cucumbers in neat rows.

Omaha should get ready, Hamm said.

“We’re a game changer. We’re going to change how everyone else in the area does business.”

Contact the reporter: 402-444-1336; barbara.soderlin@owh.com

Gordmans to open new Omaha store at end of April

Gordmans will open a new store in Omaha at the end of this month.

The new 50,000-square-foot store will be at 14933 Evans Plaza, just south of West Maple Road in the new West Grayhawk Shopping Center, and will open April 28.

Gordmans, founded in Omaha, has five other stores in the Omaha area, including one in Council Bluffs, and 103 in the United States.

The company estimates 100 people will be hired to staff the new store.

A grand opening event will be held April 30 and May 1.

 

Grayhawk development near 144th and West Maple — launched 15 years ago — is almost complete

West Grayhawk - Fresh Thyme

POSTED: MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 2016 12:30 AM | UPDATED: 11:20 AM, MON JAN 11, 2016.

Launched 15 years ago, the Grayhawk development in northwest Omaha again is soaring, and about to complete its final leg.

It was in 2001 that city officials approved the plan to bring new life to a meadow covering about 95 acres southwest of 144th Street and West Maple Road.

Cormac Co. sold about a third for residential construction, recalled former Planning Board member John Hoich.

Soon on the commercial side sprouted a Lowe’s, followed by a Michael’s and other retailers. The Lowe’s megastore in 2002 was doing so well that city planners proposed early annexation to gain the new sales tax revenue for city coffers.

But with the Great Recession later that decade came financial struggles for the commercial developer. Portions of Grayhawk were returned to the bank.

In 2011 Omaha-based Lockwood Development bought about 16 acres west of the Lowe’s store that until recently remained grassy land.

Dubbed West Grayhawk, that’s the construction zone visible today along West Maple Road between 147th Street and 150th Avenue.

When completed, the roughly $30 million section essentially wraps up the Grayhawk development area, said Lockwood President Chip James.

He said most tenants should move in later this year, and the last of the West Grayhawk businesses should be operational in 2017.

Hoich, who served nearly two decades on the planning board, remembers the Grayhawk journey. At one time he bought and then three years later sold a chunk of the commercial development.

He recalls the portion now being developed by Lockwood as one of the more challenging pieces, due to hilly terrain.

James said he hauled off a lot of dirt and debris, and hit a few snags as he tried unsuccessfully to attract a Sam’s Club and apartments.

But he said he is more satisfied with the current mix of shops Lockwood has secured.

Except for one retail bay, most of the Lockwood property is either leased or sold to users — a testament, James said, to the strength of the West Maple corridor.

Incoming tenants include a Gordmans and a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, which will be bookend anchors of a 100,000-square-foot retail strip also containing a Shoe Carnival and an Ulta Beauty.

A Rusty Taco and three other tenants (under contract but yet to be identified) are poised to fill a 10,000-square-foot building.

In addition, Lockwood has sold three construction pads totaling about four acres to Children’s Physicians, Amigo’s restaurant and a financial institution, which would build and own their own structures.

West Grayhawk comes as more housing and commercial space is under construction farther west along West Maple Road.

A milelong stretch between 180th and 192nd Streets is transforming to Antler View apartments and a commercial area. That $150 million project, expected to spread over a decade or so, is being developed by Quantum Real Estate and Vann Realty Co.

Meanwhile, hundreds of rooftops are coming. North of Antler View is the developing Indian Pointe residential subdivision. To the south is Elkhorn Highland Ridge.

Construction has ramped up at West Grayhawk since it started last summer at the site.

Hoich said West Maple has long been a solid retail corridor, and he’s glad to see the last phase of Grayhawk. “It’s wonderful it finally is coming to this stage — and that things will continue to move west, but not in that leapfrog manner.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1224, cindy.gonzalez@owh.com

She.la moving into Sterling Ridge development

She.la will reopen in its new space at Sterling Ridge development on Nov. 24.

The boutique will close its store at Countryside Village, where it has been for 18 years, on Wednesday, owner Sheila Christ said.

Christ has said she planned the move to Sterling Ridge, a new mixed-use development near 132nd and Pacific Streets, because she needed more space. The new store will be about 4,000 square feet and will feature some pieces from the existing store, including the dressing room mirrors and sliding barn doors.

Northstar Financial Services Group LLC Expands Omaha Corporate Campus, Breaks Ground on New $6.3 Million Facility

OMAHA, NE–(Marketwired – August 25, 2015) –

  • Omaha-based holding company breaks ground on second building on corporate campus after hiring more than 300 new employees since January 2014;
  • NorthStar Financial Services Group, LLC services over $325 billion in assets under management and administration and is currently home to 709 employees;
  • Newly developed space will include seating for 300-350 employees, access to running trails, shower and locker rooms, and views of Zorinsky Lake and Recreation Area

NorthStar Financial Services Group, LLC (NorthStar), a holding company for several subsidiaries which manage and service financial assets, is breaking ground today on its second building on the Omaha, Nebraska campus.

Collectively, the NorthStar companies are currently home to 709 employees and $325 billion in assets under management and administration. The approximately $6.3 million expansion is a result of impressive growth at NorthStar and its subsidiaries, including the hiring of 326 new employees company-wide since January 2014.

“NorthStar has deep roots in the Omaha community,” said Todd Clarke, CEO of CLS Investments, LLC, a NorthStar subsidiary. “What began as a family owned and operated local business, has evolved into an incredible organization built to empower investment advisors. This new building on our Omaha campus will allow us to continue to invest and innovate in support of our clients’ success.”

“The corporate culture and structure of all NorthStar subsidiaries is a function of this vibrant community,” added Eric Clarke, CEO of Orion Advisor Services, LLC, a NorthStar subsidiary. “Within the walls of our campus and beyond, we’re lucky to surround ourselves with visionaries who push the boundaries and challenge each other to make waves throughout the broader financial services industry.”

In April 2015, the company announced its acquisition by TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm, to include its primary business units — CLS Investments, Gemini Alternative Funds, Gemini Fund Services, Gemini Hedge Fund Services, Northern Lights Compliance Services, Northern Lights Distributors, and Orion Advisor Services. The acquisition has further provided NorthStar the resources and leverage to allow expanded support for financial advisor clients and access to additional capital for acquisitions.

“An expansion of our home campus is a physical representation of how much NorthStar continues to grow its footprint, locally and nationally,” said NorthStar Executive Vice President of Sales and Business Development, Bill Wostoupal. “As our subsidiaries continue to expand and enhance their offerings for investment advisors, milestones like this one are a testament to the exciting momentum that we see company-wide.”

The new expansion to the NorthStar campus is comprised of a 45,000 square-foot building that will house offices for The Gemini Companies, Northern Lights Compliance Services, and Northern Lights Distributors. The space will include seating for 300-350 employees, access to running trails, shower and locker rooms, and views of Zorinsky Lake and Recreation Area, providing the opportunity to further expand and develop the subsidiaries, as well as cultivate collaborative spaces that can be used to host events for both the financial services industry and local business community.

The expansion is expected to be completed in spring of 2016, and is being developed by Lockwood Development. For more information about NorthStar and its subsidiaries, visit http://www.nstar-financial.com/.

Omaha’s Countryside church votes to join tri-faith site

Kris Hess joined Countryside Community Church because of its strong children’s ministry and uplifting preaching.

But now she has a new reason to be happy she signed up six years ago.

The congregation voted Sunday to relocate to a planned interfaith site for Christians, Muslims and Jews in west Omaha.

The decision was important because it keeps alive a plan by the nonprofit Tri-Faith Initiative organization to have all three faith groups represented.

Hess said that she voted in favor of moving because of opportunities for collaboration and building relationships with people of Jewish and Muslim faiths.

“We just need to move to this level of greater understanding,” she said.

The 35-acre site near 132nd and Pacific Streets is in the Sterling Ridge retail-office-residential development on the former Highland Country Club golf course, more recently known as Ironwood.

Countryside Church has been at its current location at 88th and Pacific Streets for more than 60 years, and some members said the decision to move was a tough one.

But a strong majority of Countryside members favored relocating.

Of 543 votes, 392 — more than 70 percent — favored moving to the interfaith site. Countryside is a United Church of Christ congregation, and major decisions are made by members voting as a group, not by pastors and other leaders.

The Rev. Eric Elnes, Countryside pastor, said the vote shows that his congregation understands the benefits of collaborating with Muslims and Jews at the site. Specifics haven’t been worked out, but community service and education have been mentioned by interfaith leaders as potential areas of collaboration.

“It strengthens all three faiths,” Elnes said.

The first piece of the interfaith campus landed in place when Temple Israel moved into its new synagogue at the site in 2013.

Plans are underway to build a mosque at the site.

Organizers of the interfaith effort believe that the site might be the only one in the nation where three such congregations are intentionally planning to locate at the same place.

Don Reed, a longtime Countryside member, said he voted against the move, partly because he thinks the church simply wants to look special by joining the interfaith effort.

“It’s being done for the notoriety,” he said.

He also said the current church is in good shape and has enough space. Raising millions of dollars to build a new church is wasteful, he said.

Mike Murphy lives three blocks from the current church and likes the neighborhood feel of Countryside. He was torn when deciding how to vote but ended up saying yes to moving.

Moving farther west will help Countryside stay strong because the church will be closer to residential growth, helping it attract new members, he said.

Countryside member Bill Sellgren agreed.

“There’s a tendency to drive to what’s convenient,” said Sellgren, who voted in favor of moving.

Elnes said he realizes that the outcome of Sunday’s vote might cause some church members who opposed the move to feel angry. But he’s hopeful that many of them will support the decision by the majority.

Rick MacInnes, the lay leader of Countryside’s church council, agreed.

“I wish and hope they join in this journey,” he said.

Vic Gutman, spokesman for the Tri-Faith Initiative organization, said Countryside’s decision to relocate gives the interfaith effort a significant boost.

But he said it’s too soon to say that the interfaith site will become a reality. Tri-Faith leaders and others involved in the effort will meet Monday to address remaining questions, Gutman said.

For example, non-Muslim donors had made major financial pledges to partially fund construction of a mosque if a Christian congregation committed to building a church. The Tri-Faith organization now must ask those conditional mosque donors if they will give final approval to helping fund it.

The Tri-Faith organization is scheduled to announce details on the future of the interfaith site at a press conference Tuesday morning.

Countryside first started considering the interfaith site more than a year ago.

A strong majority of Countryside members voted last June that they believed it to be God’s will that they look into the cost and other aspects of relocating to the site.

A feasibility study was undertaken that examined such details as the cost of constructing a new church, along with what’s lacking and what’s working at the current building.

The new church would have 71,100 square feet, based on a preliminary design. The cost is estimated at about $25 million, including land. Elnes said the cost would be covered through fundraising and sale of the existing church.

Countryside already has $16.1 million in firm financial commitments toward construction, mostly from congregation members, Elnes said.

MacInnes, the church council leader, said the new church would have more usable space than the current building, which has about 63,000 square feet.

With the additional space, the congregation would be able, for example, to expand and strengthen its ministries, MacInnes said. The new church also would have other advantages such as better security and parking.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1122, michael.oconnor@owh.com

Major projects are changing the Omaha-area landscape

By Cindy Gonzalez / World-Herald Staff Writer

 

*This article features our Sterling Ridge (132nd & Pacific) & West Grayhawk (147th & West Maple) Developments!

 

From the new Lumberyard District in old downtown Millard to north downtown’s so-called Innovation District, clusters of commercial and residential construction projects are expected to change the Omaha-area landscape this year.

Among the hottest development spots is around Village Pointe shopping center, where a couple of the area’s largest real estate firms are building headquarters, other new office and retail structures are rising and a new rehabilitation hospital is getting underway.

“That whole area just kind of went crazy, ” said Vince Leisey, owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate. He said he will shift his staff later this year into a new headquarters at 331 Village Pointe Plaza. Since announcing the move, the footprint of the facility that will include other tenants has expanded, and its price tag grew from an estimated $10 million to $15 million.

Midtown also is a hotbed of construction activity, buoyed by continued development at Aksarben Village, the University of Nebraska at Omaha arena set to open this fall near 67th and Center Streets, and the nearby $42.6 million medical office that developers call the TH!NK center.

Ripples of construction continue to downtown, where apartments and hotel rooms are being built, and south to Sarpy County’s booming residential housing market.

Tim Underwood of MarketGraphics Nebraska expects homebuilding to pick up this year, following a 2014 that fell below expectations with fewer building permits issued than in 2013.

He anticipates the fastest residential growth will be along Highway 370 in Sarpy County, where sprawling subdivisions are replacing farmland, especially near Werner Park.

Developer Tom Falcone, however, said he still sees more demand than he can satisfy in certain west Omaha areas, particularly those served by the Elkhorn school district. His latest project calls for turning 162 acres of rolling agricultural land near 186th and Blondo Streets into 348 single-family lots.

He said houses, meanwhile, continue to sprout on Windgate Ranch and other Douglas County subdivisions he has developed. “They’re getting gobbled up as fast as we put them out.”

A sampling of developments that should be visible in 2015:

Village Pointe area

» Sharing a courtyard with the Ambassador Real Estate headquarters will be Pitch pizzeria’s new west Omaha restaurant, slated to open in the spring.

» Nearby will be the new 47,000-square-foot office structure whose anchor tenant is the Advent intellectual property law firm.

» Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital should be full throttle on the exterior of its $93 million, 110-bed facility just west of the Village Pointe shopping center, although it isn’t expected to open until later in 2016.

West Dodge corridor

» An apartment complex with more than 300 units is to launch this spring, as Deeb Realty finishes its new corporate building at the 54-acre West Dodge Pointe office park west of 168th Street. The frontage road parallel to West Dodge is to be lowered, raising the visibility of the development site, which is north of the Village Pointe shopping center.

» A summer completion is expected for the $7.5 million, 42,000-square-foot building project at 158th Street and West Dodge Road that will have as its main tenant the Tagge Rutherford Financial Group, partner Chad Peterson said.

» The 14,100-square-foot sales office for NP Dodge real estate, called 148Dodge, is to open in the fall and will be the sixth NP Dodge office to overlook the Dodge corridor.

» Construction is expected in midyear, says Lanoha Development, on a 30,000-square-foot office building near 85th and Cass Streets.

» Construction could begin on a 75,000-square-foot office building at Fountain West office park announced in 2013 by West Des Moines-based R&R Realty Group. The 40-acre site, southeast of the West Dodge Road and 192nd Street intersection, has been held up by discussions about the entry road configuration.

Downtown

» Walls are set to go up soon on the five-story Hotel Omaha by Express and retail space northeast of 24th and Farnam Streets, a $17.8 million project to be open by late summer.

» The $20 million rehabilitation of a run-down, multiblock residential district is to start this month near 22nd Street and Dewey Avenue and be mostly done by year’s end. The Flats on Howard project, developed by former Husker Ndamukong Suh’s TFL Development and Arch Icon Development, promises to turn a crime magnet into a trendy, techie housing campus.

» The Corvina, a 125-unit apartment complex under construction at Ninth and Jones Streets, is to open this summer. Ground-level commercial tenants are to move in a few months prior. They are BVH Architects, which designed the structure, and developer City Ventures. Also at the site will be an “auto spa” owned by the developer and open to the public.

North downtown

» A pocket northeast of 17th and Cuming Streets this year will take on a new look as the $9.2 million, five-story Nichol Flats apartment and retail building by Anant Enterprises rises; a former hay warehouse is converted into housing by NuStyle Development; and a cluster of vacant structures, including the J.F. Bloom & Co. building at 1702 Cuming St., are repurposed.

» The Nichol Flats and Rochester projects will add 142 apartments to north downtown, which residents call an innovation district. Arun Agarwal of White Lotus Group, which recently purchased the Bloom property, said his renovation project will offer dining, retail and parking space.

» Two other vacant structures, a defunct fire station at 999 N. 16th St. and Fitzgerald boardinghouse at 1624 Cuming St., recently were purchased. The firehouse is being restored into the future home of W.I.T. Capital Management (What It Takes); the boardinghouse owner was unavailable to comment.

Midtown

» A plan announced in late 2013 for a key, vacant block at Aksarben Village (a new $50 million complex referred to as Waitt Plaza) has been tweaked based on tenant requests, and construction on the resulting pair of buildings with about 180,000 square feet of office and retail space and a parking garage should begin in late 2015, said Jay Noddle of Noddle Cos.

» Also at the village, 40 more upscale apartments are to go up this spring, and the five-story office and retail building whose anchor tenant is Pacific Life Insurance Co. is to be completed later in the year, along with a connected four-story parking structure. That’s about the time the nearby UNO/Community Arena is to be opened.

» The six-story Think Whole Person Healthcare facility, with glass exterior and a $40 million price tag, should open this summer on a 5-acre site at the northeast corner of 72nd Street and West Center Road.

Southwest

» Called the Lumberyard District, the 15.5-acre site formerly owned by Millard Lumber is to see new construction start this summer. To be included on the recently cleared property near 135th and Q Streets: two commercial buildings (40,000 square feet of office space; 20,000 square feet of retail) and five apartment buildings (338 units).

» Development, residential and commercial, continues at the sprawling Sterling Ridge campus near 132nd and Pacific Streets. A Summer Kitchen and Scooters are to move into part of the recently constructed retail component. A law firm is the latest tenant to announce a move into one of the office structures.

Benson area

A multimillion-dollar complex with more than 100,000 square feet is to break ground near 60th Street and Northwest Radial. The site, about 2.5 acres, is to offer a mix of commercial and residential uses, said developer Chris Erickson of City Ventures. A bank now on that site will be razed, but the project is phased so that bank services will not be disrupted.

Northwest

» The West Grayhawk 85,000-square-foot retail center, with Fresh Thyme grocery as an anchor, is to be built at 147th Street and West Maple Road, said Lockwood Development Co.

North and South Omaha

» An apartment project proposed in 2012 is to be completed this year. The historic Ak-Sar-Ben Beef building near 24th and Vinton Streets is to be converted into the Lofts on 24th. Developer Arch Icon said all the financing finally was approved for the $3.8 million project.

» Construction is to begin this summer on the former Mister C’s site at 30th and Fort Streets. The 30 Metropolitan Place project has been expanded to five stories, with 110 apartments and ground-level retail services tailored to the needs of students at the nearby and expanding Metropolitan Community College Fort Street Campus.

Sarpy County

» The seventh building, about 20,000 square feet, is to be done in 2015 at Midlands Place near 84th Street and Highway 370. The structure, anchored by Athletes’ Training Center, will include retail and medical services, developer Russ Daub said.

» Papillion expects to see construction next year on the Bellino Ninety Six project, about 25,000 square feet of commercial space and a 345-unit apartment complex at 96th Street and Cornhusker Road, said Planning Director Mark Stursma. Also to be completed: the $50 million Hillcrest Grand Lodge near 60th Street and Highway 370.

Residential subdivisions

» Home construction is poised to start at the Prairies at Skyline Drive and West Center Road and the Bluewater lake community in Valley. Among new Papillion housing areas: Prairie Hills, Ashbury Creek, Granite Falls, South Brook.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1224, cindy.gonzalez@owh.com

 

 

Sanders lauds city’s financial gains

Rita Sanders, who will seek a second term as mayor of Bellevue Nov. 4, does not dance around the issue of taxes.

She has said repeatedly the city has done all it can to cut spending. It has eliminated positions and cut hours, she said, and the result is that no further spending cuts can be made without impacting services.

In a hyper-competitive economy, where cities compete with one another for new employers, reducing services reduces the likelihood that potential employers will consider Bellevue, she said.

Sanders, 56, said a better approach is to bring new business to Bellevue, which in turn will increase tax revenue. A stronger tax base will lower overall taxes while making it easier to maintain or improve services, she said.

Sanders, a Republican, pointed to encouraging signs that Bellevue’s economy is rebounding from difficulties experienced during the past decade.

A $22 million hotel and conference center complex to be built in the Twin Creek retail district, along with private purchase of a land at the intersection of Fort Crook and Cornhusker roads, are both indications of an economic recovery that will replenish tax coffers, she said.

Sanders said Lockwood Development, which has purchased the 33-acre Fort Crook Road site, plans to “move dirt” this year and to begin construction next spring on a commercial center.

She said the company has not yet identified its prospective tenants but have assured her that “it looks really good.”

“The way forward is economic development, not tax cuts that mean cuts in services,” Sanders said.

“Who would want to come here when services are being cut?”

Sanders said an improvement to Bellevue’s identity has been installation of bicycle lanes along Fort Crook Road. Though she is aware of public grumbling about the $270,000 project, of which the city paid $53,000, Sanders said bicycle lanes are a top requirement of modern companies looking for a location.

“First and foremost, that is the direction our society is going,” she said. “People want multiple modes of transportation.

“We have to think about the next 10 or 20 years, and when we have companies looking at Bellevue, one of their first five priorities is how many miles of bike trails and bike lanes we have.

“We have to have an answer for that.”

She said the cost of the project is offset by the reduced cost of resurfacing only just four lanes of Fort Crook Road instead of six, a savings she estimated at about $330,000 a year.

In addition, she said, studies show that traffic along Fort Crook Road no longer merits a six-lane highway and that the surplus two lanes were natural bike lanes.

Sanders said she believes she will lay out four years of achievement when voters go to the polls Nov. 4.

“We had a $5 million deficit when I took office, and that hole was going to be growing faster if we didn’t rein in our spending,” she said.

Sanders said her approach was to build relationships with department heads and make them responsible for bringing expenditures in line with city revenues.

“It was a team approach, and they responded,” she said. “They did a great job meeting their goals.” Sanders said she will carry that team approach into the field of economic development.

Assistant City Administrator Larry Burks was hired to lead Bellevue’s economic development efforts, she said, and together with Bellevue Chamber of Commerce President Jim Ristow and other civic leaders, she has worked to lay the foundations for an era of new economic growth in Bellevue.

“That’s the team approach I will use,” she said. “Not just within the City of Bellevue, but also with leaders on the city, county and federal levels.”

 

Omaha’s first stand-alone Chick-fil-A opens Thursday

By Barbara Soderlin / World-Herald staff writer

Papillion has one. Bellevue has one. Now Omaha will too. The city’s first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant is set to open Thursday, the company announced.

The first 100 adults in line by 6 a.m. Thursday at 17501 West Center Road in Legacy Village will each receive a gift card loaded with 52 free meals to use, once a week, over the next year.

People can start lining up 6 a.m. Wednesday, and if there are more than 100 people there when the line opens, the 100 spots will be chosen in a drawing. Those selected will need to camp out for the next 24 hours to secure their spots in line. Food, music and entertainment will be provided during the campout.

In contrast with previous “First 100” events, only people who live in local ZIP codes will be able to participate. The Papillion and Bellevue openings brought participants from around the country. Participants will need a driver’s license, recently mailed bill or bank statement to prove their residence.

The restaurant will employ about 90 people. Operator Stu Shaw is a retired Air Force officer. The location is one of 93 the Atlanta-based chain is opening in 2014. It has indoor and outdoor seating and a two-lane drive-through.

People who donate a new children’s book between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, and during business hours through Saturday, will receive a coupon for one free entree per person.