August 10, 2022

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Council gives nod of approval to first phase of Gold’s Building renovation | Local Business News

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The Lincoln City Council on Monday gave a nod of approval to the latest redevelopment plan for the Gold’s Building at 1033 O St., a project that would turn the old department store into a hotel.

The $24 million project is the first phase of a plan to renovate the building, which takes up about 75% of the block bounded by 10th, 11th, O and N streets — the third such attempt to save the historic building, which is now vacant.

Developer Mike Works is proposing to renovate the six-story northern part of the building into 110 hotel rooms with 6,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space on the first floor. It also includes 40 underground parking spaces.

That portion of the building, built in 1924, is historically significant, both because of its history as a department store and its Gothic revival architectural detailing. Additions were added in 1929, 1947 and 1951.

The project would also include the demolition of the building at 1023 O St., directly to the west of the Gold’s Building, with the space then used as either a hotel entrance or open space.

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Councilwoman Sändra Washington said she likes that developers are trying to maintain as much of the facade of that building as possible, something she said is important to avoid a gap in buildings along O Street.

“To have a ‘missing tooth’ would be weird,” she said.

A second phase of the plan involves demolishing the southern four-story portion of the Gold’s Building. The developers did not go into detail about their plans for the space but said the demolition is necessary to renovate the northern portion.

The inability to get historic tax credits to add windows to the southern portion of the building scuttled an earlier redevelopment plan.

Andrew Willis, the attorney representing the developers, told the council that that portion of the building was in such disrepair it would be hard to fix.

“To preserve the original tower (on the northern portion of the building) … you need to tear down the south tower,” Willis said.

The developers did a market study that confirmed there is demand for additional hotel space, and Willis said lodging tax revenue has increased beyond pre-pandemic levels.

He said the project will add 65-100 jobs.

Among the many “moving parts” of the project is leasing a portion of the basement area under the sidewalks owned by the city. Developers are working through the paperwork to lease those areas, as well as moving LES power lines that run underground along portions of the building.

The project also requires moving the much-debated StarTran transfer station now located at 11th and N streets — something critical to the project moving forward, Willis said.

Willis and Works said they’ve found a potential location for the transfer station but didn’t say where because the deal hasn’t been finalized.

Willis said they are “optimistic” they will reach an agreement with the landowner. He said it will be better than the existing transfer station, which has been problematic for years and has no public restrooms or other facilities for those waiting for buses.

Federal transportation law requires the city has a transfer station, and riders would have access to a transfer station during a move, said Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Director Liz Elliott.

The city has applied numerous times for federal grants to build a new transfer station, and one is pending that would — if a grant is approved — would possibly be located at the County-City Building parking lot at Ninth and K streets.

The relocation being negotiated with the city and a landowner would presumably be used until a new station is built one day.

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution finding that the first phase of the Gold’s plan conforms with the city-county comprehensive plan.

The project would seek about $4.2 million in tax-increment financing, which would allow the future property taxes the redevelopment generates to pay for certain upfront costs.

The developer also is considering seeking to have it designated as an Enhanced Employment Area, which would allow for a 2% occupation tax on general retail and hotel revenue and a 1% occupation tax on restaurant and bar revenue, with the proceeds reinvested in the development.

Two small-business owners told the council they were concerned about adding an occupation tax, which might not be a burden to large franchises but would be difficult for them.

The council would need to approve the designation needed to allow them to access an occupation tax and it wasn’t before the council Monday.

But Willis said if the developer seeks that designation for the second phase of the project, an occupation tax would only affect businesses in the Gold’s Building and the footprint of the project — not other downtown businesses.

He said he hopes to be before the council with plans for phase 2 of the project in the next months.

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