OWH: Aksarben Village has another $82 million in development planned



By Cindy Gonzalez / World-Herald staff writer

An additional $82 million in new construction projects headed to Aksarben Village — more office, retail, apartment and parking structures — will close up a couple of the biggest gaps left at the 70-acre midtown Omaha campus.

Not all of the tenants have been secured for those proposed properties, but developers say the village’s history suggests that won’t take long.

And except for a few hitches, such as the scrapping of a plan for owner-occupied town houses, the ongoing transformation of the old Thoroughbred racetrack grounds near 67th and Center Streets continues better than expected, said lead developer Jay Noddle of Noddle Cos.

So far, he said, the investment on projects built, under construction or planned at the village totals about $500 million. Original estimates a decade ago were about $150 million. That is just the village portion, not First Data Corp. or university-related buildings on the larger former Aksarben site.

City Planner Bridget Hadley said spinoff activity and property improvements in and around the village are what the city had hoped for: “Not only bringing forth more density, but a vibrant mixed use of work, play, entertainment and living options,” she said.

The latest changes, according to documents submitted to Omaha planners, total more than $82 million and seek $9.75 million in tax increment financing. The plans call for:

» An 80,000-square-foot office, retail and restaurant building on the corner of 67th Street and Mercy Road. A large corporate user reportedly has committed to occupying the top level of what would be a three- or four-story structure.

» A four-story retail and residential building fronting Frances Street that would have 10,000 square feet of retail and apartment lobby space on the ground floor; upper floors would contain 21 apartments.

» Another four-story building with 40 apartment lofts, facing west with a view of College of St. Mary softball fields and campus.

» As announced six weeks ago, a five-story building with Pacific Life Insurance Co. as anchor on the northeast corner of Mercy Road and Aksarben Drive. Restaurants, other retail shops and offices would occupy the rest.

» An 880-stall, four-story parking garage, replacing an existing surface parking lot and connecting by sky bridge to the Pacific Life building.

» About two blocks to the east, southwest of 64th Avenue and Frances Street, two apartment buildings. The largest would have four levels, 45 units and 31 parking stalls. A three-story eight-plex is designed in a “walk-up” style. Parking for both would be available in an existing garage servicing nearby businesses.

Construction on the Pacific Life building and connected parking garage are to begin soon, with opening of the office structure expected late next year, planning documents said. The other office and housing structures in the entertainment zone are to be done either next year or in 2016.

The other apartments are to be completed by fall 2016.

The TIF funding, a tool that allows property tax revenue from new construction to pay some redevelopment costs, is to be a topic at today’s City Planning Board meeting.

Alchemy Development, which is planning the new apartments at 64th Avenue and Frances Street, already has developed 183 other units at Aksarben Village. The next group would resemble the existing Pinhook Flats buildings, said Alchemy owner Bert Hancock, but have a distinct name and feature red and bold color elements to complement the neighboring DLR Group.

“We want to have an impressive corner element so when you’re looking from the new arena it will really attract people’s attention,” Hancock said, referring to the $88 million sports arena that the University of Nebraska at Omaha is to open next year at 67th and Center Streets.

Earlier plans by Noddle Cos. had called for the Alchemy site to be 21 upscale “live and work” town houses, the first owner-occupied residences in the village. But Hancock said people who could afford the homes typically are older and don’t like all the stair-climbing.

“If everything had gone as planned, there would have been more town homes, but that market really evaporated in the recession,” Hancock said. “We adjusted course, added apartments and everybody is happy. It has added to the amount of people that live and work in the area.”

The other proposed apartments and office/retail structures are projects primarily of Magnum Development and McNeil Co., which previously partnered on Aksarben Cinema.

John Hughes of Magnum said that new chunk would, for the most part, finish off the 8-acre entertainment “Zone 5” bordered by Stinson Park, Aksarben Drive (parallel to the Keystone Trail), 67th Street and Frances Street. (Also in that zone is the theater and businesses including DJ’s Dugout and Aspen Athletic Club.)

Securing TIF funds is an important part of making the proposed parts fall into place, Hughes said. He said he is in negotiations with various tenants to fill the space.

The land remaining lies mostly in Zone 6, the vacant block where the $50 million Waitt Plaza is to rise. Announced six months ago, the eight-story office and retail building with a parking garage is scheduled to be completed at the northeast corner of 67th and Frances Streets by early 2016.

Plans for that block call for two other office/retail buildings. Noddle said marketing and tenant recruitment for all three has ramped up.

A few property patches “here and there” remain and could become homes to various users as the village further matures, said Noddle. “It’s those little eclectic pieces that get filled in and really round out the mix in the village.”

Never Mind the Bollocks: 34 Insights From Nassim Taleb


Nassim Taleb, the author of The Black Swan and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder with 34 insights from his facebook account:

(Note: Thanks to Farnam Street Blog for this list. FSB is an outstanding site)

1. The artificial gives us hangovers, the natural inverse-hangovers.

2. The only problem with the last laugh is that the winner has to laugh alone.

3. Intelligence without imagination: a deadly combination.

4. There is no more unmistakable sign of failure than that of a middle-aged man boasting of his successes in college.

5. Never trust a journalist unless she’s your mother.

6. One of life’s machinations is to make some people both rich and unhappy, that is, jointly fragile and deprived of hope.

7. [If] someone is making an effort to ignore you he is not ignoring you.

8. The danger of reading financial and other news (or econobullshit) is that things that don’t make sense at all start making sense to you after progressive immersion.

9. It’s a sign of weakness to worry about showing signs of weakness.

10. Friends, I wonder if someone has computed how much would be saved if we shut down economics and political science departments in universities. Those who need to research these subjects can do so on their private time.

11. I trust those who trust me and distrust those who are suspicious of others.

12. A good man is warm and respectful towards the waiter or people of lower rank.

13. Journalists feel contempt for those who fear them and a deep resentment for those who don’t.

14. When someone starts a sentence with the first half containing “I”, “not”, and “but”, the “not” should be removed and the “but” replaced with “therefore.”

15. The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it.

16. Journalists cannot grasp that what is interesting is not necessarily important; most cannot even grasp that what is sensational is not necessarily interesting.

17. Never buy a product that the owner of the company that makes it doesn’t use, or, in the case of, say, medication, wouldn’t contingently use.

18. Just realized that to politely get rid of someone people in Brooklyn say “call me if you need anything.”

19. Injuries done to us by others tend to be acute; the self-inflicted ones tend to be chronic.

20. We often benefit from harm done to us by others; almost never from self-inflicted injuries.

21. You will never know if someone is an asshole until he becomes rich.

22. When someone writes “I dislike you but I agree with you”, I read “I dislike you because I agree with you.”

23. A great book eludes summaries. A great aphorism resists expansion. The rest is just communication.

24. For a free person, the optimal – most opportunistic – route between two points should never be the shortest one.

25. What counts is not *what* people say, it is *how much* energy they spend saying it.

26. Used skillfully, a compliment will be much more offensive than any disparagement.

27. I trust those who are greedy for money a thousand time more than those who are greedy for credentials.

28. Just as eating cow-meat doesn’t turn you into a cow, studying philosophy doesn’t make you wiser.

29. It is a great compliment for an honest person to be mistaken for a crook by a crook.

30. Many want to learn how to memorize things; few seek that rare ability to forget.

31. High Modernity: routine in place of physical effort, physical effort in place of mental expenditure, and mental expenditure in place of mental clarity.

32. The ultimate freedom lies in not having to explain “why” you did something.

33. A book that can be summarized should not be written as a book.

34. If you have something very important to say, whisper it.

Read more posts on Farnam Street on:
Nassim Taleb • Philosophy

Lübeck: A turning point in World War 2


Anyone who has read Slaughterhouse Five learned about the Allied destruction of Dresden during World War Two. Most accounts of the attack recall it with regret at the massive destruction of innocent life and property in one of Europe’s most picturesque cities.

Looking back on decisions made during warfare, it’s always easier to claim that one attack was more heinous than another. In the heat of battle, when the very notion of freedom and justice is under threat in the face of a ruthless fascist regime, all bets seem to be off the table.

And yet, there were some moments in World War 2 that seemed to cross a line. The idea that there were “civilized” rules of war that somehow implied that attacking ordinary citizens was wrong, now seems quaint in the present era when dictators will go so far as to gas their own citizens.

The Palm Sunday 1942 bombing of the German port city of Lübeck was one of the moments of war that seemed to indicate a new threshold had been crossed.

Lübeck was considered to be an architectural treasure and was largely bereft of military targets. The Royal Air Force decided that they needed to begin a program of bombing civilian areas in an effort to diminish German morale. They had also recently developed incendiary bombs and wanted to deploy them in an older city that was sure to burn rapidly.

The bombing caused major destruction and civilian deaths, but did little to diminish German morale. As a retaliation, the Luftwaffe initiated a series of bombings against English cities known for their picturesque charm rather than for military importance. Bath, Exeter, Canterbury and York were bombed by the Nazi’s, but with limited success.

These raids were known as the Baedecker Blitz because the targets were selected from a 1937 Baedeker travel guide of Britain.

Smyrna: A Greek tragedy witnessed by Americans


20130323-120017.jpgIn September, 1922, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, the victorious revolutionary ruler of Turkey, led his troops into Smyrna (now Izmir) a predominantly Christian city, as a flotilla of 27 Allied warships– including three American destroyers– looked on. The Turks soon proceeded to indulge in an orgy of pillage, rape and slaughter that the Western powers anxious to protect their oil and trade interests in Turkey, condoned by their silence and refusal to intervene. Turkish forces then set fire to the legendary city and totally destroyed it. There followed a massive cover-up by tacit agreement of the Western Allies who had defeated Turkey and Germany during World War I. By 1923 Smyrna’s demise was all but expunged from historical memor.
– Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City, Marjorie Housepian Dobkin

Estimates of Greek and Armenian deaths range from 10,000 to 100,000. Nearly 500,000 Greeks were forced to emigrate or detained in concentration camps.




Prior to the Turkish conquest, Smyrna was a Greek commercial enclave on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor where Christians lived peacefully among the Turks. In fact, most ethnically Greek residents of Smyrna spoke Turkish as their primary language.

While Ataturk’s violence was extreme, it was not entirely unprovoked. Greek troops had wiped out a Turkish brigade in May of 1919, after the end of the First World War and claimed Smyrna as part of Greece. A military administration was formed by Greece in and around Smyrna.

The Greek premier Venizelos had plans to annex Smyrna and he seemed to be realizing his objective in the Treaty of Sèvres signed on August 10, 1920.[16] (However, this treaty was not ratified by the parties and replaced by the Treaty of Peace of Lausanne.)

From Wikipedia:

Smyrna (Ancient Greek: Σμύρνη or Σμύρνα) was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Due to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence.


The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey. The first site, probably founded indigenously, rose to prominence during the Archaic Period as one of the principal ancient Greek settlements in western Anatolia. The second, whose foundation is associated with Alexander the Great, reached metropolitan proportions during the period of the Roman Empire. Most of the present-day remains date from the Roman era, the majority from after a 2nd century AD earthquake.

A sure thing for $4 million. Or would you risk it?


“Loss aversion is certainly the most significant contribution of psychology to behavioral economics.”
-Daniel Kahnemann

Psychologist Daniel Kahnemann, with his partner Amos Tversky, earned the 2002 Nobel prize in economics for discoveries in the field of behavioral economics. His 2011 book Thinking Fast and Slow is a treasure for everyone seeking to understand the complicated and highly irrational nature of the economic brain.

Kahnemann’s biggest breakthrough came in the development of what is known as Prospect Theory.

In the 1730’s Daniel Bernoulli correctly showed that different levels of wealth have different levels of utility. Consider an increase in someone’s wealth by $1 million dollars: The person with zero dollars will have much greater utility for $1 million dollars than the man with $9 million who reaches the level of $10 million. The amount is the same, but the utility is much higher for the poor man.

Bernoulli’s Utility Theory found that the utility of wealth could be measured:
$ Millions = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Units of Utility: 10 30 48 60 70 78 84 90 96 100

So, if you were given this bet, the choice would be fairly simple:
A 50/50 chance to have either $1 million or $7 million, or a 100% chance to have $4 million.
$1 million x 50% is the utility unit of 10 x 50%
$7 million x 50% is the utility unit of 84 x 50%

(50% x 10) + (50% x 84) = 47 vs. 60 which is the100% certainty of $4 million.
You would choose the sure thing and take the $4 million.

Kahnemann and Tversky, building on the theories of Harry Markowitz, proved that Bernoulli’s theorem doesn’t take into account happiness resulting from a recent change.

Imagine that Jack and Jill each have $5 million today. According to Bernoulli, both Jack and Jill have an equal level of utility. Now assume that yesterday Jack had $1 million and Jill had $9 million. Obviously Jack is ecstatic and Jill is miserable.

Kahnemann’s two key points:

1.Utilities are attached to changes in wealth rather than to states of wealth.

2.Losses loom larger than corresponding gains for the economic mind.

What if you had to have surgery on your knee to repair damaged ligaments. Say the doctor informs you that there is a 5% chance that you could lose your leg. How would you feel if he informed you that there was a 10% chance of losing your leg? The percentage change is the same, but the level of risk is perceived to be much higher in the loss-averse mind.

What if the doctor said the same operation has a 95% success rate? What if he said it was 90% successful? What does that make you feel? Framing the question has a major influence on your perception of risk. The use of a negative outcome is far more influential.

Insurance salesmen have plenty of customers.

The Coming Water Crisis That Will Change The Lives Of Every Person On The Planet


I suggest that everyone read Michael Snyder’s synopsis of the water shortages that we are facing and will only get worse unless dramatic behavior changes occur. His post can be found at the Economic Collapse Blog.

Most troubling for us here in Nebraska is the massive depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer cited by Snyder. It has been the most crucial source of agricultural irrigation in the nation’s heartland and it faces extinction.

Snyder writes:

In the United States we have massive underground aquifers that have allowed our nation to be the breadbasket of the world. But once the water from those aquifers is gone, it is gone for good. That is why what is happening to the Ogallala Aquifer is so alarming. The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world, and U.S. farmers use water from it to irrigate more than 15 million acres of crops each year.

The following are some facts about the Ogallala Aquifer and the growing water crisis that we are facing in the United States. A number of these facts were taken from one of my previous articles. I think that you will agree that many of these facts are quite alarming…

1. The Ogallala Aquifer is being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute.

2. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie” has been permanently drained from the Ogallala Aquifer since 1940.

3. Decades ago, the Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of approximately 240 feet, but today the average depth is just 80 feet. In some areas of Texas, the water is gone completely.

4. Scientists are warning that nothing can be done to stop the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. The ominous words of David Brauer of the Ogallala Research Service should alarm us all…

“Our goal now is to engineer a soft landing. That’s all we can do.”

Rare Color Photos of the US during World War II


#in Posted by the Library of Congress on Flickr

Painting the American insignia on airplane wings is a job that Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, does with precision and patriotic zeal. Mrs. McElroy is a civil service employee at the naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Her husband is a f

Painting the American insignia on airplane wings is a job that Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, does with precision and patriotic zeal. Mrs. McElroy is a civil service employee at the naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Her husband is a flight instructor

1942 August