Kelly Doran knows retail. He knows it so well, in fact, that he recognized when retail would begin to decline, and he had the vision to exit retail development and shift his focus to multifamily before it was a hot commodity. The question that resounded with Doran, was how to apply decades of retail experience to a new product, multifamily? “What are shoppers looking for?” asks Doran. “Convenience, security, and a pleasant atmosphere.” These factors can make or break even the best retail centers. Coincidentally, these happen to be the same attributes that urban renters are looking for in their new homes.
Applying this philosophy to his student housing projects near the University of Minnesota in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, Doran has brought online hundreds of new high-end market rate units in the last several years. When Doran first recognized the need for student housing, he pursued the Dinkydome site. Not listed on any historic registry, Doran figured the project would be a relatively straight-forward venture. However, like many development projects in recent years, there were entitlement challenges, lawsuits, and at one point, financing was completely unavailable.
In late 2008, soon after purchasing all 3 parcels for the project which included both the Dinkydome site and the future site of Sydney Hall Apartments, Doran’s 9 million dollar loan disappeared, and he had already invested 3 million. “We sat around and drank for a couple of months,” jokes Doran, “Then we had to find a solution.” The size of the Sydney Hall building was scaled back from a high rise to a 6-story midrise building to cut costs. The Dinkydome, which before the recession had potential interest from the University as office space, was converted into 2-story loft-style homes.