Blue Cross proposing new headquarters at Aksarben Village
BlueCross Centre at Aksarben Village would be the name of a proposed new headquarters for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, a $99 million, 10-story structure to open in 2010.
Blue Cross would sign a long-term lease on the building, which would be the tallest corporate headquarters built in Omaha since the 19-story Union Pacific Corp. headquarters was announced in 2001 and opened in 2004.
Steve Martin, chief executive of Blue Cross, said today signs are good that the companyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s board of directors will approve the project.
City approval also is needed, because the building would be taller than Aksarben VillageÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s current limits,
"ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s got to cost us less to operate than our current facilities. WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re very optimistic. We hope all the numbers come in as anticipated," Martin said.
The key will be the cost of leasing a new building compared with the expense of owning and operating Blue CrossÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ three current office buildings at 72nd Street and Mercy Road, he said.
Blue Cross would sell those buildings, valued at about $50 million, and invest that money in core computer systems and other efficiencies, he said.
Blue CrossÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s board of directors has supported the headquarters review process, Martin said, and may have final details to consider by the end of October.
"Our members donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t use buildings," he said. "It appears we can lease a building long-term at a lower cost than ownership. Sinking capital into buildings is not a great investment, in terms of our membersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ best interests."
The structure would be built and owned by Tetrad Development Corp., a subsidiary of Tetrad Corp.
Don Mohlman, president of Tetrad Development, said the company is seeking government approval and lining up financing.
"EverybodyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s pretty excited about the project," he said.
Janet Richardson, senior vice president for Blue Cross, said the company was encouraged by city officialsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ support for the project.
City economic development manager Ken Johnson said the plan meets all city requirements to be part of Aksarben Village, even though the building would be taller than initially anticipated for that area.
"It is a state-of-the-art modern design that will blend in, in terms of whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s being done at Aksarben Village," he said. "ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a significant accomplishment in terms of the scope and scale of the project."
Tetrad Corp., the new name for Magnum Development Corp., is owned by W. David Scott. He is the son of Walter Scott Jr., chairman emeritus of Peter Kiewit SonsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Inc. Kiewit Building Group is listed as the contractor for the proposed project.
Magnum has developed retail buildings and other parts of the mixed-used Aksarben Village.
Mohlman said Tetrad acquired the vacant 10.3-acre site from Ak-Sar-Ben Future Trust, the non-profit group that took possession of the former Ak-Sar-Ben race track and auditorium property.
Tetrad is asking city government to raise Aksarben VillageÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s present building height limit from 100 feet, or about six stories, to allow the 164-foot-tall BlueCross Centre. The city also must designate the site for an office structure.
"We have not sensed any reluctance from anyone," Mohlman said. "We have appreciated the cooperation from the city and Ak-Sar-Ben Future Trust."
Leo A. Daly Co. of Omaha designed the proposed BlueCross Centre, which would have metal panels, an aluminum "curtain wall" and a plaza in the back near an employee-only food service area.
Blue Cross would move 1,200 employees there and add 150 jobs, according to TetradÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s request to use $12 million in tax incentives for infrastructure improvements.
Site preparation on the northeast corner of what will be Aksarben Drive and Frances Street will begin later this year and would be necessary for any building constructed there, Mohlman said.
The building would be about 100 feet deep and 450 feet wide, with 315,000 square feet of space. The project would include a 1,200-stall, three- or four-story parking garage and 240 surface parking spots. Blue CrossÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ present headquarters includes a customer service office.
According to preliminary plans, the main entrance would be on the north side. The south wall would be curved and face the newly built Frances Street and outside plaza.
Mohlman said Daly designed the building based on Blue CrossÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s requirements.
"It will be considered a Class A building, certainly," he said.