La Vista’s Southport West Poised to be Tourist Destination With Mix of Offerings

The area off the Interstate 80 and Giles Road Inter­change is shaping up to look completely different (think: the entertainment retail district that is the Power & Light District in Kansas City, Mo., or Atlantic City. N.J. outlet com­plex The Walk), courtesy of a plan by 111-year old global de­veloper The Cordish Cos. to transform Southport West in La Vista into a regional entertainment and retail go-to.


“We are confident the project will be a tremendous success and will help fulfill the city’s vision of creating a dynamic re­gional tourism destination,” said Vice President Blake Cord­ish, following the January project announcement.


According to Cordish information, the first phase of the project will be a more than 430,000-square-foot upscale outlet center and entertainment venues and restaurants linked by walk­ways and gathering spaces. Other phases are set to include another 100,000 square feet of retail and entertainment-ori­ented development.


Though Cordish noted the project will result in hundreds of jobs, city of La Vista Administrator Brenda Gunn said it is working with a consultant to measure the projected econom­ic impact a project of such magnitude will have on the area. Cordish has noted more than 1.2 million unique visits will be made to the Southport West district, upon completion of the first phase of development.


Gunn said it’s important to remember that the vision for the area has been years in the making – the result of leadership recognizing the area as a gateway into the community.


“This didn’t just happen by osmosis,” she said.


She referred to the adherence to stringent design guidelines in the existing area, as well as overall development standards.


“It’s not easy for a governing body to say ‘no,’” Gunn said, re­ferring to businesses who expressed interest in the area, but were found to not be a fit through the years with the ultimate vision for Southport West, which includes Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista/Hotel & Conference Center, Marriott Court­yard and Cabela’s.


Gunn said their growth and viability in the area played a “huge” part in the plan to convert Southport West into a tour­ist destination. “You could not ask for better anchors to work with,” she said.


In fact, Dean Hokanson Sr., who with Dennis Hoth have been instrumental in the development of Southport West as man­aging members of Southport West Partners, noted this mix of hotels, retail and convention space already represents a top tourist destination in the state. Cabela’s alone, Hokanson said, draws customers from hundreds of miles away.


“We have a tremendous advantage to see our vision through in that we are building and expanding on the success of these current businesses,” he said. “There is undoubtedly a strong symbiotic relationship between the existing tourist-oriented anchors and the planned outlets, restaurant and entertain­ment venues. It has been a great advantage in attracting popular tenants to the development.”


In addition, just to the east across Giles Road, exists the aptly named Southport East.


“The PayPal campus, the Securities America headquarters, the Hampton Hotel and the other office properties and ser­vices have added to the growing popularity of the area.” Ho­kanson said of this part of Southport.


Hokanson and Hoth also point to the momentum behind At­lantic City’s The Walk, for which Southport West will be mod­eled.


“The Walk features over 100 brand name retailers and draws over 2 million visitors per year. It has transformed an under­utilized urban area to a bustling gateway to Atlantic City and a tourist attraction in and of itself,” Hokanson said. “The Walk is currently fully leased and will be celebrating the grand open­ing of Phase 3 of the project in the fall of 2011.”


In addition to top retailers, national and regional restaurants and entertainment venues, they noted a live events plaza will feature free events throughout the year – like live music, art festivals and special performances.


Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista/Hotel & Conference Center General Manager Tony Moody, who noted earlier this year that the hotel posted more than a 19 percent gross revenue boost last year alone, brought up the proposed district as a bright spot.


“[We] anticipate growth to continue as Cordish Cos. pursues construction of Southport West outlets and entertainment center,” he said.