Second Condo Tower Planned in Omaha as Tower One Tops Out

Jun. 10--Crews placed the highest beam Friday on the Riverfront Place condominium tower in downtown Omaha as buyers got their first tours of the interior and the developers made plans for a second tower.

The topping-off ceremony, called Beams, Blues and BBQ, was planned for about 250 people and included a chance for future residents, construction workers and contractors to sign the final beam.

With everything on schedule and on budget, one of the developers, Ross Robb, said before he left Scottsdale, Ariz., for the event that he was pleased with how the project has progressed and with how it's been received.

Most of the phase-one units are sold; three of the 18 town houses and six of the 38 tower condos in phase one remain.

Also sold are the penthouse, which was marketed for $1.65 million but still is being designed and doesn't have a final price tag, as well as unit 1 of the town houses, which is closest to the Missouri River. The 2,800-square-foot unit was listed at $634,000 when it sold.

"We remain high on downtown Omaha and Omaha in general," Robb said. "We'll probably be looking for future projects for ourselves there."

For now, though, Robb said the focus is on designing phase two of the project launched when Mayor Mike Fahey selected the developer for city-owned land south of the Gallup University campus and near the base of the planned pedestrian bridge linking Omaha and Council Bluffs.

Condo prices have increased since sales began in October 2004. For example, the town houses with what are called "sky rooms" on the rooftop were being offered for about $450,000 when sales first started, and the two that remain are priced at about $550,000.

Sales manager Ben Proctor said the prices have risen not only because fewer units are left, but also because of the views from certain condos and the additional features that were added, such as sky-room baths, in response to feedback from prospective buyers.

Construction workers for Construction Services Inc. of Omaha and West Des Moines typically are the only ones taking the construction elevator to the top of the 13-story building.

From the 5,500-square-foot penthouse's 45-by-23-foot balcony -- one of three, standing about 160 feet in the air and about 200 feet from the river -- views stretch for miles, including over the treetops on the Council Bluffs shore.

From the eighth floor, which is where the Friday tour had to end for insurance liability reasons, the view featured the river and the treetops, but not the structures beyond.

The town houses, which have rooftop decks, also have expansive windows. Friday, stacks of 8-by-9-foot windows waited in the first-floor garage as glaziers prepared the next one for installation in the tower.

Robb said phase two, a tower that will sit northeast of the current one and closer to the river, also will feature a lot of glass but probably will have more varied units, including some that are smaller and possibly lower priced than in phase one.

That phase, he said, also will include a pedestrian plaza and some component of a restaurant site. He expects to unveil the design and begin sales in the fall.

Move-in time for phase one is around Nov. 1.

Some people are just discovering the project, Robb said, now that windows are in up to the eighth floor and the town houses are in the stage where cabinets, countertops and tile are being installed.

But some buyers have been monitoring the progress for more than a year, and Friday's event was their first chance to see the views they imagined when they looked at plans for their future homes.

Jon and Cindy Empson will be moving from a five-bedroom house in the Westside High School area into a two-bedroom ninth-floor unit.

Jon Empson, who is a senior vice president for Aquila, said the couple thought that with four grown children, it was the right time to give up home-maintenance worries and "get tied in to a lot of the activity going on downtown."

They love to walk, he said, and expect to make a lot of trips to the Old Market, where a son is a chef at M's Pub.

Crew members feel they're working on something special, said Dan Biere, president of Construction Services Inc., the general contractor.

"There's really nothing else like it in Omaha, nothing close," Biere said. "It's a landmark, and we're proud to be working on it."

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