It's smaller than the grand project envisioned a couple of years ago, but the city finally has another developer with a plan for the so-called "catalyst" block.

The city chose Urban 38, a collaboration involving local developers Will and Robert Scott and The Woodbury Group of Utah, to develop the block bounded by 13th, 14th, Q and P streets, Mayor Chris Beutler announced Friday.

The $27.1 million plan calls for a nine-story building with 20,000 square feet of first-floor retail, five levels of city-owned parking and three floors of 48 two- and four-bedroom apartments.

It covers the entire north half of the block, including a small strip building that has several fast-food restaurants. Will Scott said the building is already under contract to be bought.

And it incorporates the city's civic plaza concept at 13th and P, where the Douglas 3 theater stood.

While the plan is a far cry from the $180 million, three-skyscraper project proposed more than two years ago, Beutler said he's pleased with it.

"We believe this proposal fits the site well and also fits into the urban design character of downtown Lincoln," Beutler said.

The city and Urban 38 will start negotiating the particulars of the development next week, he said. The plan will qualify for tax incentives, but the city did not give an estimate of what the amount will be.

The city gave a vague time frame for the likely start of construction, saying it would be sometime next year.

But Will Scott said "barring any crazy events underground -- "hopefully we don't run into Jimmy Hoffa" -- work could start as early as spring.

Zach Wiegert, a former Nebraska and NFL football player who is the lead developer with Woodbury Corp., said the project will require five to six months for design work and 14 to 15 months for construction, meaning it would likely be late 2011 or early 2012 at the earliest before the project is complete.

The Scotts and Woodbury are also part of a team selected to do private development around a proposed West Haymarket arena. And the Scotts are involved in other downtown projects.

Asked whether there is a risk they could get spread too thin on the various projects, Will Scott pointed out they are a small part of the development team -- and they're working with partners who have national reputations.

"We wouldn't ever swim out farther than we could swim back," he said.

Said Wiegert, whose firm boasts that not once in its history has it defaulted on a project: "By no means are these guys spread too thin."

The project already has committed financing from Colmena Capital, a privately held firm that often finances Woodbury projects.

Wiegert said there are no agreements with retailers yet, but he said Woodbury has already talked to potential tenants. He declined to name them, but said some would likely be new to Lincoln.

Among retailers Woodbury has worked with on other projects that don't have Lincoln locations are clothing stores Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Anthropologie.

While the retail element of the project may generate the most buzz, the parking element has driven the project almost from the beginning.

The five floors of city parking will have 567 stalls, which Downtown Lincoln Association President Terry Uland said will help support efforts to create a retail corridor on P and Q streets.

Uland said he also sees plenty of demand for more downtown apartments.

"The market's pretty strong," he said. "A lot of people want to live downtown, so we've got more demand than product."

Reach Matt Olberding at 473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

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