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Nebraska / Developer eyeing Capital Steel site for apartments in Lincoln

Developer eyeing Capital Steel site for apartments in Lincoln

A proposal to develop a large student housing complex north of downtown could face a number of hurdles, including environmental issues and neighborhood opposition.

The Prime Company of Manhattan, Kan., is in the early stages of planning what could eventually be a 1,100-unit apartment development costing up to $100 million.

Chris Elsey said he is looking at land where Capital Steel sits at 1001 N. Ninth St., and has talked with the company about buying the land.

Frank Sidles, president of Capital Steel, was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Steve Henrichsen, development review manager for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department, said the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan shows the future land use of the Capital Steel site and the area around it as urban residential.

The site is in the North Bottoms neighborhood, an area of older homes that was once home to thousands of German immigrants but today is populated mostly by homes rented to university students.

Annette McRoy, president of the North Bottoms Neighborhood Association, said she had spoken with Elsey last week and helped set up a neighborhood meeting but knows little about the project.

She said she had not spoken to neighborhood association board members about the project, but her own opinion is that it would not be a good thing for the neighborhood.

“I was livid when I saw it,” McRoy said.

She said such a large complex on such a small piece of land could cause tremendous traffic issues.

“Personally, I think 1,100 apartments is way too many,” McRoy said.

Elsey said the project would be built in three phases, the first consisting of 404 apartments in a six-story building that would have covered parking on the first two levels and apartments on the top four. The parking and apartments would wrap around an open courtyard in the middle, which would include a pool.

The other two phases would be built later if market conditions warrant. There would be studios as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Although the site is near the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, Elsey said the arena is not the reason he’s looking at Lincoln.

“We feel like the demand for student housing within walking distance of the university is not really being met there,” said Elsey, who said he’s familiar with Lincoln and has visited often because his wife is from here.

Elsey, whose company has built a student housing complex in its hometown of Manhattan and has two under development in Stillwater, Okla., said it would be more than two years before any construction would occur in Lincoln. He estimated an August 2015 start date.

“We’re just in the infancy of this,” he said.

Elsey has had some discussions with city officials, including both the Planning Department and the Urban Development Department, although Henrichsen said the firm has yet to submit any plans.

Elsey said he’s considering applying for tax-increment financing for the project but is leaning against doing so. However, “we certainly want to keep all of our doors open.”

Wynn Hjermstad, the city’s community development manager, said she has had discussions with Elsey and encouraged him to meet with North Bottoms residents before proceeding.

She said neighborhood opinion is going to be an important factor in whether the city gets behind the project.

“The neighborhood doesn’t have to support it, but it at least has to be neutral,” Hjermstad said.

She said there also may be issues with the Capital Steel site, including possible environmental contamination and the fact that it’s in the floodplain.

Matt Olberding

Matt Olberding

The Lincoln Journal Star