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Nebraska Examiner Report: Mutual of Omaha headed to downtown library site

Omaha Public Library
Posted at 9:44 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 11:42:18-05

OMAHA, Neb. — Mutual of Omaha — a corporate icon that’s been planted in midtown Omaha for decades — is poised to build a new headquarters where the city’s downtown public library stands, according to sources familiar with the project.

The relocation of the Fortune 500 company, now based at 33rd and Dodge Streets, answers part of the mystery that for months, even years, has surrounded the future of the W. Dale Clark Library at 15th and Douglas Streets.

Conversation about the fate of the library, now nearly a half-century old, has increased with the ongoing $400 million renovation of downtown parks, with many taxpayers objecting to demolishing the structure.

In addition to the relocation of Mutual, which has about 4,000 Omaha-area employees, Mayor Jean Stothert’s administration and business leaders on Wednesday are expected to announce a streetcar system that would run from downtown to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The mayor’s invitation to an 11 a.m. press conference on Wednesday said she would share a “pair of significant urban core development announcements.”

Business sources and several others in and around City Hall, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, would not specify how the streetcar would be funded. They said details would have to wait for the mayor’s announcement.

On Tuesday, the Omaha City Council held a lengthy, and at times testy, public hearing on a proposed new lease agreement for the future home of the downtown library at 1401 Jones St. A number of people testified against moving the library. Several local business leaders spoke about the value of freeing up the current library site to grow the downtown economy.

Mutual’s new building is expected to be a tower that could surpass the height of First National Bank, currently the tallest downtown building at 40 stories.

The insurance company broke ground on its then-new corporate base at 33rd and Farnam Streets on Sept. 4, 1939.

Around 2007, it built the $365 million,15-acre retail and residential Midtown Crossing campus near its headquarters. Then Mutual’s real estate arm began buying up numerous parcels around the campus, raising speculation in some circles that it might build a headquarters there.

In April 2018, Mutual announced it had started a study that could lead to a new headquarters complex but about a year and a half later said it was on hold as it focused on other priorities including its core insurance business.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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