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Looking for a Nice House? Watanabe Mansion for Sale

January 23, 2008

By Christine Laue, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Jan. 23–The Watanabe mansion, one of Omaha’s largest and most notable homes, is for sale.

NP Dodge’s Jeff Rensch, the listing agent for the Regency mansion at 9800 Harney Parkway South, said Tuesday that he could disclose the sale price only to legitimate buyers.

“It’s priced to sell,” Rensch said. “It’s a great value for somebody.”

The home of philanthropist Terry Watanabe, former owner of Oriental Trading Co., has an assessed valuation of $4,989,600, according to the Douglas County assessor’s Web site.

Watanabe currently is living in the home and plans to maintain another residence in Omaha, Rensch said. Rensch declined to specify whether Watanabe has purchased another home.

Rensch said the mansion’s finished space is now 20,125 square feet, which is slightly more than the assessor’s site shows.

The brick, limestone and slate mansion sits on 4.05 acres and features nine bedrooms, 18 bathrooms, a gourmet kitchen, a custom wine cellar, a whole-house energy management system and a three-story elevator. The lower level features a modern exercise facility and health spa with sunken Jacuzzi, steam room, dry sauna and massage room.

The property also includes an indoor and outdoor pool and tennis courts.

“It’s an absolutely fabulous home in every way, and it’s been impeccably maintained,” Rensch said.

Because of the unusual scope of the home, it is not being listed in the multiple listing service — a routine way of advertising residential property, Rensch said. He said he has shown the home to “a couple families” in the past few weeks.

“We are right now in the process of marketing it privately and directly to families that we have targeted,” Rensch said.

He has, however, established a Web site –www.9800harney. com — with pictures and listed features.

Godfather’s Pizza founder Willy Theisen built the mansion in 1983. At that time, a contractor estimated that 4,000 pounds of copper went into the flashing, gutters and downspouts.

In April 1995, Theisen sold the property for $1.8 million to Watanabe, who ran Oriental Trading Co., which markets party supplies, toys, home decor items and giftware. On Halloween 2000, Watanabe retired from the company, which was founded by his late father, Harry.

The home has been part of a Halloween tradition in Omaha. Several thousand parents and children have flocked to the mansion each Halloween, when Watanabe would hand out trick-or-treat goodies.

A mansion expert hired in 2004 by the county to rank the desirability of Omaha-area mansions put the Watanabe house at the top of its list. At that time, its main living space was 12 times as large as the average Douglas County house.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

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