One of the largest residential projects in the history of downtown Lincoln is planned for the block that is now home to the Lincoln Journal Star.
Newman Development Group of Vestal, New York, wants to build a 10- to 12-story building on the western two-thirds of the block bounded by P, Q, Ninth and 10th streets -- considered by many the gateway to downtown and the doorstep to the burgeoning Haymarket.
The $90 million to $100 million project, dubbed City Centre, would include 245 market-rate apartments, two or three floors of office space, parking and first-floor storefronts.
Newman Development has a deal in place to buy the building at 926 P St. and plans to demolish it.
The newspaper itself is not for sale, and will continue publishing from new offices. The Journal Star would retain ownership of its production building across Q Street, where the newspaper is printed.
David Newman, one of the development company's executives, on Friday revealed plans for an upscale project with amenities that will include a rooftop pool and gathering space, fitness center and a commercial-grade kitchen. The apartments will be a combination of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.
Newman said the retail component — a number of tenants have signed letters of intent — would include businesses to serve apartment residents and workers in the building. Uses could include a bank and restaurants.
Newman said no office tenants have signed up yet, but there has been a lot of interest. The company is still deciding whether to have two or three floors of office space.
The building will feature underground parking with 100 spaces and a parking deck with about 130 spaces on the second floor.
Newman said the company also plans to negotiate with the city for a certain number of parking spots in the city-owned Market Place Garage at 10th and Q streets.
Parties on both sides declined to disclose the sales price of the 78,000-square-foot Journal Star building, saying there is a confidentiality agreement in place.
Craig Forman, a broker with Home Real Estate in Lincoln, said the price is higher than the building's $4.5 million assessed value. He and Todd Lorenz are representing Newman Development.
Newman said he would like to have the deal finalized by July so demolition can start in the fall. Construction is projected to take 20 months, and Newman hopes to have the project completed early in 2020.
That timeline is largely dependent on two factors.
One is the relocation of the Journal Star's newsroom and business offices, which have been at 926 P St. since 1951. Newspapers have operated on the corner in one form or another for 135 years.
Publisher Ava Thomas said she is evaluating potential sites.
"We've narrowed our search to a few great options," she said. "We take our role as the leading provider of news and information in this community very seriously, and we'll land in a place where we can continue to serve readers, users and customers the best."
Both Thomas and Newman said the sale agreement does not require the deal to close until the end of 2017.
The other factor involved is city tax incentives.
Newman Development plans to utilize tax-increment financing, which allows the additional property taxes generated by new development to be used to pay for portions of the development that provide public benefits.
As proposed, Newman said the project would generate several million dollars worth of TIF.
He said he is confident he can negotiate an agreement with the city and complete the approval process by the end of July.
It's not the first time interested buyers have made pitches to the paper. The Journal Star has fielded offers in the past four to five years for its property, identified in the city's master plan as an important link in continuing to develop P and Q streets as retail corridors.
The Journal Star would join a growing number of newspapers that have sold their downtown real estate and found new homes, including the Des Moines Register, Seattle Times and Washington Post. In October, the Wichita Eagle said its downtown space would be converted to a headquarters for Cargill.
With 245 apartments, the project planned for the Journal Star site would be the largest residential development downtown in recent history — possibly the largest ever.
According to figures from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department, the Latitude student apartment complex that opened in 2015 at 10th and M streets has 198 units, and it is the biggest of the recent student-focused complexes that have opened downtown.
According to the Planning Department, the only downtown residential project built in the past 15 years with more than 200 units is the Village, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln apartment-style hall for students with 213 units.
Steve Henrichsen, the department's development review manager, said he didn't think any other existing downtown building had more than 150 residential units.
While noting that such a large residential project is unique in Lincoln, Newman said he's confident there is a market for it.
"We think it's the right time to build a project like this," he said.
Newman said that when he visited Lincoln for the first time in August, "I think it took me about 20 seconds to say, 'This is a great place.'
"We really see this as a marquee location in the city."