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Bellevue cybersecurity campus ‘full speed ahead’ despite falling short of state funds sought


Bellevue cybersecurity campus ‘full speed ahead’ despite falling short of state funds sought

Apr 16, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Cindy Gonzalez
Bellevue cybersecurity campus ‘full speed ahead’ despite falling short of state funds sought
A vision of the proposed Prairie Hill Farm innovation and collaboration campus. It would begin on nearly 45 acres currently owned by the City of Bellevue, but over time could quadruple in size. The campus anchor would be the REACH facility, shown as the dark structure in the far background at the end of the double row of trees. Other structures would be housing, more office and commercial space, restaurants. (Courtesy of HDR)

BELLEVUE — Despite not getting all the state funding hoped for this year, a cybersecurity-centric campus that proponents believe will thrust Nebraska into the forefront of national security efforts is moving forward.

Construction could start by the end of this year on the Prairie Hill Farm site northeast of Highways 75 and 34, said Harrison Johnson, Bellevue’s director of economic and community development.

“We are full speed ahead,” Johnson said.

Sprouting on 45 acres of farmland

The public-private venture is headed by a team including the City of Bellevue and developer Burlington Capital.

As envisioned, a roughly 45-acre campus (with room to grow) would be anchored by a six-story, 200,000-square-foot commercial facility focused on developing new national security technology.

Bellevue cybersecurity campus ‘full speed ahead’ despite falling short of state funds sought
Rendering of proposed REACH facility that would house academics, startups, government contractors and others focused on beefing up national security systems. (Courtesy of HDR)

Around that so-called REACH facility (Research, Engineering, Architecture Collaboration Hub) would rise housing, hotel rooms, stores and other office and commercial space. 

All is aimed at creating a neighborhood alluring to academics and high-tech professionals who would work in the cybersecurity center.

The ultimate mission: to prop up local and state economies and the growing NC3 operations at the nearby U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base. NC3 refers to nuclear command, control and communications.

To be built in phases

Designed to be done in phases, total Prairie Hill Farm investment could surpass $600 million, Burlington Capital’s George Achola has said. The REACH building alone is estimated to cost nearly $200 million.

Rare ‘innovation hub’ in Bellevue would boost Nebraska as leader in cybersecurity

Earlier this year, a spokesman for the development team said it was hoping for as much as a $150 million contribution from the state.

Omaha State Sen. Mike McDonnell introduced Legislative Bill 1364 but did not specify a requested amount. At a February legislative committee hearing, McDonnell said the Prairie Hill team was still working with the Governor’s Office to determine the ask.

The bill was left lingering in the committee stage and did not get aired on the legislative floor.

Meanwhile, the state in 2022 had approved an initial $20 million to start the project. Those funds were returned to the state because of a change in sponsorship, then reallocated to the Prairie Hill project again this year, Achola said.

Gov. Jim Pillen’s Office did not return a request for comment. But Johnson and Achola said Pillen has indicated his support for directing another $30 million in state funds next year — which would be a total of $50 million in state funds for Prairie Hill Farm.

Achola said the development team expects to raise other necessary money through a mixture of private and public sources.

Other Bellevue projects in motion

The City of Bellevue has committed about $21 million for infrastructure costs related to water and sewer needs.

Bellevue cybersecurity campus ‘full speed ahead’ despite falling short of state funds sought
Map shows the proximity of big projects launching in Bellevue, which is Nebraska’s third largest city by population. NC3 in blue boundaries refers to Prairie Hill Farm development site. (Courtesy of the City of Bellevue)

Johnson said those improvements also will benefit two other major Bellevue projects in the works: a water park-focused recreation district and an inland port commercial district.

“It’s one of those best-case scenarios where you get cost savings for infrastructure development,” Johnson said.

A nonprofit is to own and manage the cybersecurity campus. A representative of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development recently joined the Prairie Hill Farm Development Authority board, which includes two Bellevue administrators and others.

In partnership with the University of Nebraska, Johnson said, the venture is designed to create a pipeline of students to high-paying job opportunities “critical to keeping Nebraska’s youth in our state.”

He said the campus project is recognized as a significant need both for the state’s prosperity and national security.

“We are confident that we’ll have all the support we need,” Johnson said.