Although western Sarpy land is being snapped up, some projects lag behindApril 07, 2017By Cindy Gonzalez / World-Herald staff writer
Cornfields of western Sarpy County have become a magnet in the past five years for buyers seeking big spaces for projects ranging from data centers to cemeteries to college campuses.
But construction and jobs have yet to sprout on much of that land around the Highway 50 corridor.
“If you asked me several years ago, I would have thought we’d have tons of construction going on,” said Andrew Rainbolt, executive director of Sarpy County Economic Development Corp. “It’s taken longer than we thought to get stuff going.”
Rainbolt said several buyers scooped up large tracts of farmland around Highways 50 and 370, but some haven’t launched projects.
A flurry of sizable land grabs started in 2013, he said, when Travelers Cos. bought 140 acres for its data center, which opened two years later.
Before that, about 230 adjacent acres were purchased for the Omaha National Cemetery for military veterans.
Then came Union Pacific Railroad, which in 2015 bought 145 acres north of Travelers. Des Moines-based LightEdge acquired 85 acres the same year, followed by Metropolitan Community College, which snagged 140 acres. Those three sites have yet to see any building, Rainbolt said.
Currently under construction are business campuses for Oxbow Animal Health and Thrasher Inc. (which will share its spot with sister company Foundation Supportworks). A 180,000-square-foot Freightliner Trucks warehouse also is going up at 14321 Cornhusker Road.
In the planning stages are two other developments: a 76-acre industrial warehouse park by R&R Realty Group of West Des Moines, and a 350-acre commercial and industrial area by Dowd Properties and Noddle Cos.
Rainbolt said a development challenge with parts of the southern land is that nearby Springfield’s wastewater plant doesn’t have enough capacity to handle new activity. “It has constrained the amount of developable land until we can get a long-term solution,” he said.
A big project near Capehart Road and Highway 50 could be a game changer that drives construction of infrastructure needed to push along development in the area, Rainbolt said.
The World-Herald reported in February that Facebook appeared, according to public records, to be considering a 146-acre site in that area for a data center that could break ground this spring.
Rainbolt said he and other partners at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce are working to get more shovel-ready sites prepared to help recruit business and to accelerate development.