City Centre, a nine-story, multi-use building at Ninth and P streets, where the Journal Star building stands, gained unanimous City Council approval Monday evening.
The $85 million project, which includes $14 million to $15 million in tax-increment financing, will be the city's most expensive single building downtown redevelopment project, said David Landis, director of the Department of Urban Development.
The building will include 100 stalls of underground parking, first-floor retail, two stories of office space, 238 apartments on the fourth through the ninth floors, and rooftop amenities on the 10th floor, which will not be completely enclosed.
The apartments — studio, one- and two-bedroom units — will be high-end apartments, not aimed at students, with bike storage and a bike mechanic, pet-friendly policies and rooftop amenities. They will likely rent in the $900 to $1,200 range per month, according to testimony presented to the council at Monday's public hearing.
The developer, Newman Development Group, determined downtown Lincoln could support an additional 1,200 dwelling units, said Tom Huston, Lincoln attorney representing Newman.
Newman is talking with a restaurant, one not currently in Lincoln, and with a bank to lease some of the first-floor space, Huston said.
The New York developer will take over the 50 parking stalls owned by the Journal Star in the lowest level of the nearby Market Place parking garage and will lease another 290 stalls in the parking garage from the city.
The developer may build a pedestrian bridge connecting the garage to the fourth floor of the building, Huston said.
The developer picked the Journal Star site because of its location, near the Haymarket, near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and on the P Street corridor, Huston said.
"I think this is going to be a very handsome addition to downtown," he said.
Some council members questioned the need for additional restaurants and banks in downtown Lincoln.
The city can, through the redevelopment agreement, tell the developer what businesses cannot be in the redeveloped area. And Lincoln does not allow tobacco stores, sexually-oriented businesses, businesses involving gambling or wagering, and payday loan businesses in most downtown redeveloped buildings.
But the city cannot tell a developer what businesses it must put in street-level retail space, Landis said.
Many people would like to see more soft-goods shops and unique boutique shops downtown. But if the market isn’t going to come, you cannot write a redevelopment agreement that will make them come, Landis said.
The city plans to use at least $14 million in TIF funds — where a bond is paid off over 15 years using additional property tax collected — on the new project.
That money will be used to pay the developer's TIF administration fee, for streetscape improvements next to the building, site acquisition, site preparation, façade enhancements, energy enhancements and to pay off some of the initial interest of the bond, if there is money available.
The city may also expand the TIF bond by another $1 million, if the building valuation is higher than expected. The city plans to use that money for beautifying sidewalks and streets (Ninth and 10th, P and Q) that are not adjacent to the new building.
The council approved the redevelopment agreement, added $15 million in TIF funds to the city budget and approved the issuance of TIF-related bonds.