I thought it was interesting that the developer that won the Nebraska Innovation Park bid to develop infrastructure is the same company that was picked by the city to develop shops near the future arena.
Woodbury Corp. of Salt Lake City partnered with WRK of Lincoln to win the bidding to develop stores, restaurants, offices and so on near the future $168 million arena that will be built west of the downtown post office. I don’t believe Woodbury had done any projects in Lincoln before they won the arena gig, but they’ve signed on with WRK to do several projects since getting interested in the arena project.
The two companies are also building condos on top of the city parking garage under construction downtown between 13th and 14th on Q street. They’re also building a hotel in the Haymarket, which will be next door to the Sheldon expansion. And now, Woodbury — which is the managing partner in what it calls Nebraska Nova Development LLC — has signed an agreement to develop infrastructure for the first phase of Innovation Park (UNL’s research and development corridor on what used to be the state fairgrounds).
When I was at the LJS, I wrote about the wundertwins behind WRK, and if I were still an LJS reporter, I’d be trying to get an interview with Woodbury folks to find out why they see such potential in Lincoln, and how they’re able to invest so much money here during tough economic times. I think it’d be an interesting and well-read story.
With the venerable Cornhusker Hotel (that’s what we like to call it) teetering on the edge of foreclosure, one has to wonder what’s going through the minds of the developers who have four more hotels planned for downtown Lincoln.
And the city plans to dole out financial incentives to all four of them — infuriating some existing hotel owners. There’s the hotel that will be built across the street from the yet-to-be-built arena, a hotel to be built by WRK in the Haymarket, another Haymarket hotel literally across the street from WRK’s being planned by B&J Partnership, and a hotel on the block straight south of the Gold’s Building.
I’ll be shocked if the Gold’s project ever gets built — but the other three seem pretty sure to be built right now. Buildings have already been demolished and work is scheduled to begin this year on the two Haymarket hotels.
But if the Cornhusker is having financial problems, how will four more hotels fare? And should the city be giving developers tax breaks to help them build, when most other Lincoln hotels are not exactly filling their beds?
The owner of the downtown Holiday Inn has previously expressed his unhappiness with the city’s plans to subsidize up to four more downtown hotels — but city officials have so far been undeterred, saying, in essence, if the market is too saturated, the developers won’t be able to get financing anyway.
The Holiday Inn owner warned in August that Lincoln’s occupancy rate is only about 54 percent, and said Lincoln didn’t have room for one more hotel, much less four subsidized hotels. He flat out said he would lose his investment in the Holiday Inn if the hotels are built.
Meanwhile, the Cornhusker Marriott will go up for public auction on Feb. 17 unless it comes up with enough money to pay its former management company, Island Hospitality Management. Island Hospitality is trying to force the issue by by threatening foreclosure against Shubh Hotels Lincoln, which owns the Cornhusker but has lost most of its other hotels nationwide due to financial problems.
Island Hospitality recently obtained an $800,000 judgment against Shubh Hotels for unpaid bills and got court approval to garnish rents from office tenants in Cornhusker Plaza, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
It’ll be interesting to see if any city officials have anything to say about any of this, given their plans to help build four more — I’m not going to hold my breath though.