For Union Pacific Corp., the decision to build a new headquarters adjacent to its current home in downtown Omaha, Neb., was an easy one. Even at $260 million, the project makes good economic sense, says Jim Young, Union Pacific executive vice president of finance.
Young estimated that it would have cost $40 million to renovate the firm's current 92-year-old headquarters, as well as its customer service center in St. Louis, Mo. Additional savings stem from the consolidation of 4,000 employees from nine leased locations in Omaha. Young says Union Pacific pays $5.5 million annually in rent and operating expenses for these facilities, and estimates that renovations would cost millions more.
Letting the sun shine in
Designed by the Detroit and Washington, D.C., offices of Gensler, the 19-story, 1.1 million-sq.-ft. Union Pacific Center will incorporate a conference and learning center, 600-seat cafeteria, fitness center, broadcasting facilities, data center and even retail space. It will feature a glass curtain wall façade and a 90-by-120-ft. atrium that extends the full height of the building.
"Daylight will flood into the office space from the perimeter, as well as from the interior atrium," says Bill Hartman, Gensler's project principal, who adds that large floor plates (55,000 square feet) and widened stairways are meant to encourage employee interaction horizontally and vertically through the office space. About 80 percent of each floor will remain open, enclosed offices will be clustered to maximize office layout flexibility and natural light.
Union Pacific considered building a taller structure, some 40 stories high, which would make it one of the tallest in Omaha, like the 40-story First National Bank of Omaha currently under construction just blocks away. Instead, the company opted for a "stockier, more effective cubed-shaped building, providing larger floor areas to facilitate large departments," says Hartman.
Gensler completed the design of the building core and shell last September, and construction documents were finalized in November by Gensler and architect of record Kendall/Heaton Associates, Houston. Office layout design will not be complete for at least two years, says Hartman. "We want to remain flexible to accommodate changes," he adds.
The bidding process for a general contractor began in December. Union Pacific selected Holder Construction Corp., Atlanta, last month. Holder then hired Hawkins Construction Co., Omaha, as its local partner. The firms are currently accepting bids for mechanical, electrical and carpentry work.
City workers are preparing and grading the site for construction, which is expected to begin this month.
Currently in the 21st month of an overall 47-month schedule, the project is expected to be finished in May 2004.
Rounding out the project team is development manager Hines, Houston; M/E/P engineer Alvine & Associates, Omaha; and structural engineer Walter P. Moore and Associates, Houston.