Couple turns old downtown Omaha warehouse into an urban oasis -
Published Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 9:45 am
Couple turns old downtown Omaha warehouse into an urban oasis

David Hecker took an analytical approach to his decision-making when he and his wife, Melanie, moved this year from their large home in west Omaha to a downtown condo.

“We thought about it over a period of probably two years,” says David, 50. “We didn't have children living at home, and we had more space than we needed. We liked the house, but thought we needed a different place. We thought about moving to a lake, but ultimately decided that this was the lifestyle we wanted to experience.”

Deciding to leave their home in the Ridges near 180th and Pacific Streets for a downtown address was only the first step in this deliberative process. The couple looked at a number of buildings before settling on the top floor of the five-story Kimball Laundry building at 15th and Jones Streets.

“We had looked at this space three or four times early in 2012 and joked that it was the city's biggest birdhouse,” says Melanie, 44. “It was open, and pigeons were flying through it. But David could see a great place — modern, but incorporating industrial details. He had the vision.”

It appealed to the Heckers that they could finish the space to their liking.

“David enjoys design,” Melanie says. “We started collecting pictures of details we saw and liked, and we were able to incorporate a number of them. We saw it, we liked it and we found a way to work it in.”

Coincidentally, David's employer, Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc., was the general contractor when the building was constructed in the early 1920s.

“That's a fun detail,” says David, who is group general counsel for the Omaha-based construction company.

The U.S. Army cleaned uniforms in the building during World War II, and the fifth floor, which was added later, was once used to store furs.

“We had in our minds the size we wanted and the basic floor plan: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a larger office and then open space,” David says. “We had the flexibility here to do that.”

Two features captivated the couple: oversized, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and a private deck accessible directly from their home.

When weather permits, Melanie and David are on the deck most evenings — she with a glass of wine and he with a scotch — to enjoy the panoramic view of the city.

The view is just as striking from the inside, thanks to those windows.

“We've had a number of people say that they didn't realize Omaha had a downtown,” David says.

The Heckers have lived in Omaha since 2003. They met in Lincoln, where David received his undergraduate degree and attended law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Melanie, a community volunteer, grew up in Douglas, Neb., and attended Doane College in Crete.

Once they decided on the historic Kimball Laundry building, the work really began. Paul Nelson of PEN Architect, Ken Hagedorn of Sudbeck Homes and Julia Russell of Julia Russell Designs helped the Heckers to realize their vision.

One advantage the couple had during construction was being on-site most of the time. They sold their home in the Ridges in May 2012 and then leased a unit in the Kimball building while theirs' was being completed. They moved into their new space about a year ago.

Their 2,800-square-foot condo has a distinctly modern feel. The neutral color palette is sleek and calming. The furnishings are streamlined and functional.

Original, primarily contemporary, artwork is displayed throughout the home.

“We like to support the arts, and we like to get to know the artists,” David says. Their favorites include fine art photographs by local artists and friends, Laurie and Charles Kay.

When it was time to select furnishings, the Heckers scoured trade magazines, tapped their own design instincts and traveled with Russell to Chicago in search of unusual items.

“We went to design galleries, and Julia would help us determine if the scale of a piece was right for us,” Melanie says.

Having lived on both ends of the city, is this the final stop for the Heckers?

“This is our last place in Omaha,” David says. “We really enjoyed the process. When we talk about retirement, I look forward to making another place our own. We worked with good people, and we learned a lot. When we reach a different stage of life, I'll be better equipped next time and know what to expect.”

Meanwhile, they're enjoying the restaurants and entertainment options that their new neighborhood offers.

“The building itself is very social, and we've definitely utilized downtown,” Melanie says.

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