Sale of Historic Omaha Loft Building Typifies Strength of Adaptive Re-Use

Even in this faltering economy, the outlook for renovation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings seems bright. Historical preservation advocates tout the green advantages of reusing older buildings, and the rising cost of construction materials bolsters their case. And the National Park Service, which oversees the nation’s largest program encouraging investment in historic structures, had a banner year last year. In fiscal 2007, the park service approved 1,045 historic building projects, some involving multiple buildings, under the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit Incentives Program. In the process, the agency leveraged a record $4.34 billion in private investment in such projects. Of the more than 1 million buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places or part of registered historic districts, the park service estimates that 20 percent are income-producing. All of that constitutes the lens through which this week’s sale of the six-story Old Market Lofts Building in Omaha can be seen. Converted to apartments and extensively renovated between 2000 and 2002 by seller NuStyle Development, the building actually consists of two structures, the larger built in 1898 and the smaller in 1913. Old Market Lofts was sold for just north of $30 million to MFR Partners VII L.L.C., an entity of Monitor Finance. Jon Pesce of the Seldin Co. represented the seller, while the buyer was represented by Princeton Commercial Group. Grandbridge Real Estate Capital L.L.C. structured the financing. The building includes 266 apartments, 36,000 square feet of office and retail space, and 133 underground parking spaces for residents. Amenities include a rooftop with a pool, Jacuzzi and exercise facility, as well as a unique form of indoor plumbing: a waterfall within the six-story atrium. The apartments are 95 percent occupied, Pesce told CPN, and the retail tenants include a coffeehouse, a wine shop and a lounge. Pesce noted that although the attraction of being able to walk to work is well known in larger cities, rising energy prices are encouraging the same dynamic in smaller cities like Omaha. He also pointed out that Omaha is headquarters to five Fortune 500 companies: Berkshire Hathaway, ConAgra Foods, Mutual of Omaha, the Union Pacific Railroad and Kiewit Corp., one of the world’s largest construction companies. The building is sited at 10th and Jones streets, at the entrance to the Old Market area, a designated historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Since the mid-1980s, at least six sizeable buildings in the district have been converted from their original uses, primarily as warehouses and light industrial, into office, retail, entertainment and residential space. Since January 2006, Monitor Finance has acquired more than 2,000 multi-family units across the Midwest, more than half of them in Des Moines. Their most recent acquisition, through MFR Partners VI L.L.C., was a 264-unit Class A apartment community in Omaha in December 2007.