November 22, 2019
When it comes to renovating an older building for a new use, it can sometimes be hard to picture the outcome. However, experts say that salvaging history is well worth it in the end, and more people are starting to realize the importance.
Eileen Korth, architect at Jackson Jackson & Associates, said there is an emerging awareness and understanding that it makes environmental sense to reuse the embodied energy of an existing building.
“More than their predecessors, members of generation Y and Z have a desire to make a positive impact on the world, and companies are taking note,” she said. “Building renovation speaks to many of the environmental causes they are passionate about including energy conservation and recycling.”
According to Korth, older buildings sometimes have opportunities for higher ceiling and larger volumes, if companies are willing to expose the structure and other infrastructure, which is a plus.
She said the firm has completed numerous building renovation projects with Nebraska State Colleges, Peru State College, Wayne State College and various financial institutions.
Jay Lund, principal at GreenSlate Development, said bringing the Historic Blackstone Hotel back to life has been a dream come true.
“The rich history of this building and its significance to Omaha is incredible and what we are creating will be remembered for many generations to come,” he said.
Lund said the renovation of the Blackstone Hotel is the culmination of over seven years of redevelopment of the Blackstone District.
“We believe that the smaller the spaces are, the better they are,” he said. “We also design smaller living spaces to make them as affordable as possible. Most people prefer to spend time outside of their apartments and that is why they choose to live in this part of town.”
Lund said mixing new construction with old buildings is how cities can – and should – develop and evolve over time.
“Omaha is thriving and seeing historic neighborhoods renovate the existing building stock with a mix of new, modern construction is very exciting for us,” he said.
Brad von Gillern, CEO of Lueder Construction, said the company is currently working on a number of large projects in the Omaha metro.
“From the renovation of the original Woodmen of the World building into the Peregrine Hotel downtown, to the Blackstone Hotel in the thriving Blackstone District, to the new BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mini Dealership in the Heartland Preserve (Boys Town) development, we have the town pretty much well covered,” von Gillern said.
He said the renovations for the Blackstone Hotel, which is set to open in spring 2020, includes 205 guest rooms, several restaurants, a swimming pool in a resort-style setting and almost 11,000 square feet of meeting space including the restored rooftop Grand Ballroom.
Curt Field, architect/project manager at Prochaska & Associates, said commercial remodeling has increased over new commercial construction, with new buildings often more restricted to infill projects in older neighborhoods.
Field said design trends for the inner commercial areas seem to all be following more of an urban eclecticism theme.
According to Field, the firm has redeveloped several older retired Omaha Public Schools buildings into apartments, and has also spent significant effort on re-development of the P.E. Iler Building in the Old Market area, also into apartments, as well as the historic Prague Hotel on South 13th Street.
“Renovating older, less appealing neighborhoods should always be one of the top priorities of healthy cities, and therefore, of their design/construction communities,” he said. “The public has now embraced the trendy building design looks, and the commercial neighborhood ‘personalities’ achieved by the Benson, Dundee, Old Market and Little Bohemia areas.”
By Gabby Christensen, Midlands Business Journal