The Pinnacle Foods property in downtown Omaha is being offered to a select group of developers known nationally for their successful downtown projects combining office, retail and residential space.
Grubb & Ellis/Pacific Realty is taking this approach to marketing the property at 1116 Capitol Ave. because of its key location, said Scott Heider, Grubb and Ellis' executive vice president.
"We call it the hub of the wheel," he said, describing a wheel with spokes leading to more than a dozen projects that are part of downtown's construction boom. They include the Qwest Center Omaha and other riverfront developments, several hotels, the First National and Union Pacific office towers and the Holland Performing Arts Center.
Pinnacle Foods' 3.24 acres is being offered for $6,332,580.
The land includes the frozen food plant stretching nearly two blocks west of 10th Street on the north side of Capitol as well as two small parking lots south of Capitol. It does not include all the parking that Pinnacle workers use to the south.
Redevelopment of the site has the potential to link the new development around the Qwest Center with the Old Market and the rest of downtown, Heider said.
"That is literally a defining redevelopment site, the only defining redevelopment site left," he said.
City Planning Director Bob Peters called it "a linchpin site" because of the potential to create "a very active pedestrian route" between the convention center and the performing arts center and Old Market.
Such a route, he said, is important to the success of both the convention center and the performing arts center.
"At the present time, the visible relationship is generally non-existent on the west side of 10th Street," Peters said. "It's not a pedestrian friendly area."
The city has a right of first refusal on the Pinnacle property because of an incentives package that was put together to keep the plant open in 2001.
The city would be notified of its option once Pinnacle Foods received a purchase contract, said Peters and Kelley Maggs, senior vice president for the company.
The company announced in April that it would close the plant, which has had a downtown presence for nearly a century, operating under the Swanson, Campbell and Vlasic names.
"We'd certainly look to work with the city or a purchaser who came along" about the city's preferences for how the property is redeveloped, Maggs said.
The plant, originally scheduled to close in October, will remain in production for another six or eight weeks, Maggs said.
Both Maggs and Heider said that even though the property hasn't been on the market until this week, there already have been inquiries from potential buyers.
"We anticipate this opportunity will not be out there very long," said Heider, who is working with Brinker Harding, a Pacific Realty associate and former chief of staff for former Mayor Hal Daub, to market the property.
Peters said the property could offer a prestige office location for a major corporation but more likely will be downtown's first opportunity for a true mixed-use project that combines residential and entertainment uses. Previous efforts, he said, have maintained a more suburban separation of uses than he expects to see at this site.
Heider predicted that the developers being targeted with information about the Pinnacle land, downtown's redevelopment and characteristics of the Omaha area would have similar views as city planners on what would be the best use for the land.
What would make the most sense, he and Harding said, would be to demolish the plant and develop a mixed-use project featuring apartments or condominiums along with office space and some type of retail.
Heider said that even though downtown has a surplus of office space right now, a project offering space in a unique project and location "would work real well."
Even though a number of projects are under way to renovate old buildings into downtown residences, only two projects offer new construction, Heider said.
The timing for retail development on the Pinnacle property could be perfect, Heider said, since downtown's residential population is growing and needs more retail businesses, particularly service-oriented retail.
The Pinnacle property is being presented to "a short list" of developers who have experience with downtown mixed-used projects, Heider said. He said they include firms in Chicago, Kansas City, Denver and Minneapolis.
"We're very excited about it," Heider said. "From a community standpoint, it will be exciting to see the next step in what's happening downtown."