Omaha Commercial Real Estate Summit: One of the Midwest’s steadiest markets sees more of the same

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Omaha has long boasted one of the steadiest commercial real estate markets in the Midwedst. And that didn’t change during the pandemic. It’s no surprise, then, that the 6th Annual Omaha Commercial Real Estate Summit, held Nov. 11 by REjournals at the Embassy Suites in La Vista, Nebraska, featured so much optimism from panelists.

The Omaha summit was just the latest in the line of commercial real estate events that REjournals holds throughout the year, attracting the biggest names in the industry. Click here to see if any events are coming up in your market.

Throughout the summit, panelists spoke of how resilient Omaha’s commercial sectors were and how bright the future is for this city’s CRE market. Panelists predicted that 2022 would be an even stronger year for the Omaha commercial real estate business.

And why not make that prediction? Throughout the pandemic, Omaha’s brokers, developers and investors have remained active. Sure, the COVID-19 pandemic did slow activity in the city and its suburbs. But today, much of Omaha’s CRE market has already returned to mostly normal. Apartment buildings are being built, warehouses are rising and retailers have gotten creative enough to build new business lines.

Apartment Market & Forecast panel

And few commercial sectors in this city have been as strong as the multifamily market. Again, it wasn’t surprising when multifamily experts expressed plenty of optimism about their sector. Participating in the Apartment Market & Forecast panel were John Heine, Broker, Oak Investment Real Estate; moderator Jon Blumenthal, Partner, Baird Holm LLP; Alicia Clark, CEO, Seldin LLC; and Brian Diedrichsen, Managing Principal, NewStreet Properties, LLC.

These panelists said that the Omaha apartment market continued to thrive throughout the pandemic. People needed a place to live, so they prioritized making their monthly rent payments. As a result, rent collections remained strong throughout the pandemic.

This doesn’t mean that there weren’t challenges. Most renters paid, but some did not. And landlords, facing an eviction moratorium, could do little about it. But for the most part, the Omaha apartment market remained a bright spot during the pandemic. And panelists predicted that it would remain so in 2022 and beyond.

Omaha Market Sector Update panel

Other sectors, of course, have experienced more challenges during the pandemic. Members of the Omaha Market Sector Update panel addressed this. Speaking on this panel were Jared Sullivan, Associate Broker, The Lerner Company; Cole Scott, Associate, CBRE; moderator Cassie Paben, Director of Business Development, TETRAD Property Group; Charles McNeil, Senior Associate, Colliers; and Jeffery Schaffart, Shareholder, Kiley Jessen P.C.

These panelists spoke about some of the hurdles the office market still faces. As in most markets, many employers have not yet brought all their workers back to the office. This has left some empty offices throughout the Omaha market. But Omaha is fortunate in that many of the area’s smaller employers have brought more of their workers back. These smaller companies have more flexibility than do their larger counterparts and are taking advantage of this.

The retail market has adapted to the challenges of COVID, panelists said. An example? Restaurants have boosted their curbside pickup and delivery options. Retailers such as Target have done the same. This bodes well for the future of this sector, panelists said.

And industrial? That sector continues to boom. Industrial is the one CRE sector that has undeniably thrived during the pandemic, and the industrial market in Omaha is no exception. As ecommerce sales continue to rise, consumers want their products to show up at their homes faster than ever. That is good news for the industrial market as companies build an ever-growing number of warehouses and distribution centers.

Downtown & Suburban Developments — Game-Changing Projects panel

The final panel of the day addressed the bigger developments that will change the face of Omaha. Members of the Downtown & Suburban Developments — Game-Changing Projects panel included Arun Agarwal, CEO, White Lotus Group; Jay Noddle, President and CEO, Noddle Companies; moderator Nancy Johnson, President and CEO, NK Johnson Commercial Real Estate Advisors; Michael Moylan, President, Shamrock Development; and Peter Frei, Senior Acquisition Associate, NewStreet Properties, LLC.

As did other panelists, the members of this panel spoke optimistically about the future of Omaha’s commercial real estate industry. Developers have remained active here throughout the pandemic, they said, and should be even busier as 2021 turns into 2022.

Members of CREW were in force at the summit.