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Architecture & Design, Development, Twin Cities Real Estate, Urban Planning

Former Washburn-McReavy Funeral Home Development Remains Postponed

If you take a leisurely drive east over the 3rd Street bridge, you will see a familiar building. Familiar in the sense, the building is 90 years old. Your grandparents likely could have seen it as children. However, today unlike 90 years ago, fences surround the building with visible graffiti and construction equipment. It is the sight of one of many development projects in historic Northeast Minneapolis. 

The plan for the 90 year old building, previously occupied by Washburn-McReavy funeral home, was demolition to make way for a 40 story high rise. The project thus far is similar to the redevelopment efforts of Nye’s Polonaise which occupied the historic Harness shop and 112 Hennepin building. The Nye’s Polonaise project originally planned a high rise building, but in the end scrapped 24 of the original 30 floors to accommodate the neighborhood and Heritage Preservation Commission.

While it is not the same building as Nye’s, the project has been postponed now for almost a year. It will be interesting to see what happens, but recent history and potential project pressures may indicate serious alterations to the original plans.




Best of Real Estate Matters, Commercial Real Estate, Development, Green Building, Historic Tax Credits, Housing Trends, Investment Real Estate, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame, Minnesota Real Estate Journal, Real Estate Programs, Real Estate Trends, Think Outside The Box, Twin Cities Real Estate, Urban Planning, UST Real Estate in the News

New Members of Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame Announced

The Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame, established in 2010 by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, will add three new members in a morning ceremony Thursday, Nov. 5th, at the Golden Valley Golf and Country Club.

Members of the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame are chosen for their outstanding business performance, high standards of ethics and community activities. The three new members

Dan DolanWells Fargo

For more than 50 years, Dan Dolan has pursued a career in real estate. He was a leader in improving the professional and ethical standards in real estate and was an early promoter and employer of women in real estate sales. His real estate developments include the Evergreen Community, an upscale residential development in Woodbury; and the Oakdale Crossing Business Park.

Throughout his career, Dolan has been actively involved in boards and fundraising, including the merger of Cretin and Durham high schools, fund raising for the University of St. Thomas, and serving as King Boreas XLII in the 1978 St. Paul Winter Carnival. He may be eligible for retirement, but Dolan is just as passionate as ever about real estate development and continues to receive offers of employment in the industry.

Larry Laukka  

Since 1962, Larry Laukka has actively served in all  aspects of the real estate industry, but primarily in the building and development business. Laukka’s experience has included the design, development, financing, construction and marketing of more than 6,000 dwelling units and home sites throughout the greater Twin Cities community, and the management of approximately 3,000 owner-occupied townhomes and condominiums. His leadership roles include president and director of the Minneapolis Builders Association (MBA), senior life director of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and founder of the Minnesota Housing Institute (MHI), which served the real estate industry’s state-wide needs to commercially promote home ownership and legislative action.

In the 1960s, Laukka worked with The Near Northside Re-Development Agency, a community based organization established to guide the redevelopment of the near north side of Minneapolis. The agency focused on the growing need for market rate housing and led to the development of single-family housing, hailed as “The Suburb in the City.”  After being approached by Governer Wendell Anderson, Laukka helped develop the State Housing Finance Agency and chaired the Minnesota State Housing Code Advisory Board until a state-wide building code was in place. Most recently, he served on the Fairview Southdale Hospital board of trustees and chaired the development of its new Carl N. Platou Emergency Center opened August 2015.

James Solem

For more than 40 years, James Solem provided outstanding leadership and tireless work in real estate finance and public policy, supporting the development of rental and ownership housing for low and moderate income households. He was the executive director of the Minnesota State Planning Agency from 1970 to 1978, and served as commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency from 1978 to 1994 – a position he was appointed to five times by three Minnesota governors. From 1994 to 2000, Solem was the regional administrator for the Metropolitan Council, leading the long-range planning for transit, wastewater, parks and community development in the seven-county metropolitan area.  From 2000 – 2006, at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), he led a project to bring new ideas to the issues of affordable housing and regional growth.

Now retired from the Metropolitan Council, Solem is active with consulting and volunteer service. He is chairman of the board of the Community Reinvestment Fund and of the boards of Common Bond Housing Corporation and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. Throughout his career, Solem demonstrated an exceptional knowledge of operations and governmental polices, brought a high level of ethical standards to the real estate industry and championed those most in need.

The program is open to the public and the cost is $60. More information is available at http://www.stthomas.edu/centers/shenehon/minnesota-real-estate-hall-of-fame/

To register use the following link:    https://webapp.stthomas.edu/eventregistration/ust/register.jsp?eventcrn=B1973

The Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame now has 30 members. Previously named were:

  • 2010: Tony Bernardi, Lloyd Engelsma, Gerald Rauenhorst, William Reiling, Jim Ryan and Sam Thorpe Sr.
  • 2011: Robert Hoffman, Darrel Holt, Bernard Rice, Emma Rovick and five members of the Dayton family: Bruce and the late Douglas, Donald, Kenneth and Wallace.
  • 2012: David Bell, Robert Boblett Sr., Philip Smaby and Boyd Stofer.
  • 2013: Leonard Bisanz, Helen Brooks, Thomas Crowley, M.A. Mortenson Sr. and Kenneth Stensby.
  • 2014: George Karvel Ph.D., Cyril “Cy” Kuefler Sr., Jim Stanton


Architecture & Design, Commercial Real Estate, Development, Industry News, International Real Estate, Think Outside The Box, Urban Planning

Rising Towers Escalate Need for Faster Lifts

 The following article by  was reposted from the current issue of Urban Land Magazine

December 1, 2014


When Shanghai Tower opens as China’s tallest building next year, the 2,073-foot (632 m) tower will feature elevators capable of traveling 40.3 miles (64.8 km) per hour, or 59 feet (18 m) per second, a new milestone. That bests the 55.1 feet (16.8 m) per second achieved by the elevators in the current record holder, Taipei 101 in Taiwan, which was completed in 2004.

But Shanghai Tower likely will not hold the title as world’s fastest for long. Builders of the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre, which is scheduled to open in 2016 in Guangzhou, China, have promised elevators capable of traveling 66 feet (20 m) per second, or 45 miles (72 km) per hour. The elevators will take passengers from the first floor to the 95th floor in about 43 seconds.

The question facing the industry today: how fast can elevators go without sacrificing comfort?

“This is a new day,” says Steve Edgett, partner in Edgett Williams Consulting Groups, which works on elevator designs. “We’re in uncharted territory.” Some analysts believe mankind may be close to the limits of elevator speeds using modern technology. “I think there is a limit, not to building, but what we can do efficiently,” says Johannes de Jong, head of technology for Finland-based Kone Elevators.


Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower will feature the longest single elevator ride in a building, about 2,165 feet (660 m). (Kone Corporation)

The biggest obstacle for faster speeds is the variance in air pressure from the bottom to the top of tall buildings. A superfast elevator leaves no time for the body to adjust to the changes in pressure, similar to the effect experienced by divers surfacing too quickly in the ocean.

For elevators to go faster, something will have to be done to accommodate the human ear, which is extremely sensitive to pressure changes. Commercial jets typically take 20 to 30 minutes to descend from their highest altitude and help passengers adjust, yet earaches and complaints are still common. “One thing we cannot do is change the laws of physics,” de Jong says.

For the Guangzhou tower, Japanese tech firm Hitachi, which is building the elevators, will use a sophisticated control panel that can respond to “changes in atmospheric pressure correctly” to smooth the acceleration and deceleration process and “relieve the feeling of fullness in the ear as a result,” a company spokesperson says. This adjustment technology will reduce the abrupt pressure changes inside the elevator car, while special “active guide rollers” will compensate for even tiny lateral vibrations, Hitachi says.

But there is no guarantee the measures will provide a comfortable ride. Every person’s physiology is different; people with colds or earaches may be more susceptible to ear problems. At 66 feet (20 m) per second, even the slightest vibration will create a shock for passengers.

In Taipei 101 and other existing tall buildings, the elevators are usually set to descend much slower than they ascend in order to ease the ride. Nevertheless, passenger complaints are common. “At nine meters [30 feet] a second, I felt my ears pop,” Edgett says.

In the one-kilometer-tall (0.6 mi) Kingdom Tower under construction in Saudi Arabia—which likely will become the next “tallest building in the world”—Kone expects elevator speeds to peak at 33 to 41 feet (10 to 12.5 m) per second. “It’s up to the client,” de Jong says. “We have to show him how it feels.”

However, Kingdom Tower will feature the longest single elevator ride in a building, about 2,165 feet (660 m), using a new carbon fiber cable designed by Kone called UltraRope, which is dramatically lighter and stronger than steel cables.

Read the entire article at http://urbanland.uli.org/planning-design/rising-towers-escalate-need-faster-lifts/?utm_source=uli&utm_medium=eblast&utm_campaign=120114



Architecture & Design, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing, Twin Cities Real Estate, Urban Planning

Completion of 26-Story Apartment Building Brings Luxury Living to Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall

The Nic on Fifth™ is the first high-rise luxury apartment development in downtown Minneapolis in nearly three decades. Recently completed by Minnetonka-based Opus Group, the 26-story luxury apartment building is located on the corner of Fifth Street and Nicollet Mall. It features 20,000 square feet of retail space and skyway levels with 253 apartment units above (including 26 penthouses). The building already started welcoming new residents since September 12 of this year and so far, it is more than 60 percent leased. The Opus Group adds that The Nic on Fifth™ reflects current and future needs of the urban center of more than 35,000 residents and aligns with the city of Minneapolis’ vision of expanding the downtown population to 70,000 by 2025.

Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate Trends, Urban Planning

Target Corporation Opening Its First Mini-Store, TargetExpress

With more young people choosing cities over suburbs, Target Corporation announced early this year its new small-scale concept, TargetExpress, which is going to open in Dinkytown (Minneapolis, MN). Despites the challenging previous year marked by a difficult Canadian expansion and data breach, Target Corp. kept its ambitious plans by now responding to the recent American housing trend through this TargetExpress concept. Even though its competitor Walmart already adopted this small-format store concept with “Walmart Express” about 3 years ago, Target still has some rooms of opportunity in this progressing housing trend in the U.S. Regarding this matter, the Time magazine even recently stated “The New American Dream Is Living in a City, Not Owning a House in the Suburbs”.

 A rendering of a TargetExpress store, a smaller version of sprawling suburban Target stores that is geared for city dwellers (Source: The New York Times)

A rendering of a TargetExpress store, a smaller version of sprawling suburban Target stores that is geared for city dwellers (Source: The New York Times)

Unlike its typical stores, CityTarget (80,000 to 125,000 square feet) and SuperTarget (about 174,000 square feet), this new concept is a 20,000-square-foot store. Its strategic location of Dinkytown, precisely in the newly-built Marshall apartment building, will help better target young people such as the University of Minnesota students. With the 2014-2015 academic year starting in early September and TargetExpress debuting July 23, college students living nearby or planning to do so will get a chance to buy items such as home decor or consumer electronics not only in a more convenient way, but also before school starts.

Development, Economics, Urban Planning

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Hosting the Olympic Games

The 2014 Olympic winter games in Sochi, Russia are projected to be the most expensive in history. With construction and infrastructure costs rising to over $50 billion dollars, a staggering $38 billion over budget, Russia has more than three times eclipsed the current record for most expensive games. Greece, who hosted the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, spent $15 billion. While the immediate economic benefits and increased global profile of hosting the games are attractive, the long-term costs are unlikely to be recovered by most cities. In fact, with Greece over-spending the budget by $9 billion, the Athens Olympics are said to have triggered the economic crisis. Greece is not alone. Following the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, a tobacco tax was introduced to fund the financial loss.

In preparation for the games, cities build at a rate that would typically take years to achieve. With schedules frequently running behind, long-term planning and financial management is sacrificed to get the job done in time for the opening ceremonies. Few host nations have been successful in creating development that will benefit the country after the fanfare has left town. Many cities are left with infrastructure that suddenly has no real use.

Stephen Wenn, professor of sport history and Olympic studies at Wilfrid Laurier University told CNBC that “[Olympic planning] success comes to those who most fully grapple with the issue of legacy and remain firmly fixed on what their city hopes to achieve.”

Who has done this well and who has not? Continue Reading

Commercial Real Estate, Development, Economics, Real Estate Trends, Retail Real Estate, Twin Cities Real Estate, Urban Planning

Wal-Mart, Target Roll Out Smaller Urban Store Formats to Do Battle with Dollar, Drug Store Rivals

“Big Box” Discount Retailers Downsize Stores In Bid to Seize Market Share

Here is a recent article by Randyl Drummer posted by the CoStar Group. It shows how Target along with Walmart is adapting to opening smaller locations in urban areas

The latest growth strategy at Wal-Mart stores is to get bigger by getting smaller. After building the world’s largest retail platform by opening superstores in every major U.S. market, Wal-Mart is doubling down on a strategy of opening new stores that are a fraction of the chain’s traditional size, targeting densly populated urban areas where demographics increasingly show more people prefer to work and live.

The Bentonville, AR-based retailer is aggressively expanding its Neighborhood Market stores, which average 38,000 to 40,000 square feet — a fraction the size of Wal-Mart’s traditional 180,000-square-foot “Supercenters.”

Bill Simons, president and CEO of Wal-Mart, said the company plans to open more than 200 more Neighborhood Market stores in the U.S. over the next 18 months, bringing the total to more than 500.

“We continue to roll out this format aggressively throughout the country, opening more sites in the second quarter than in any other quarter in our history,” Simon said. “In fact, we opened 12 stores in just one day this (past) quarter.”

Moreover, the retailer has signaled it may green light an even smaller format called Walmart Express, with stores that range in size from 10,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet. Wal-Mart has built 20 Express stores in a pilot phase that has “performed very, very well for us,” Simon said, adding that the retailers plans to share more details about its plans for the smaller format at its Oct. 15 meeting for the investment community.

Both concepts compete directly against a rising number of grocery stores, drug stores and dollar discount stores that have added groceries to their offerings to reach shoppers looking for value and convenience.

The giant retailer’s smaller formats are part of a multichannel strategy to stock products purchased at its bricks-and-mortar stores as well as quickly deliver products ordered online.

In part to support that rapid product delivery strategy, Wal-Mart this week announced plans to open two new online fulfillment centers, an 800,000-square-foot facility in Fort Worth, TX, and a 1 million-square-foot center scheduled to open in early 2014 in Bethlehem, PA, that will be its largest ever.

“Increasingly, access is becoming more important to customers. And we believe we have an opportunity today through multiple formats to take our brand closer to the customers,” Simon told investors at the recent Goldman Sachs Global Retail Conference.

Express stores sized as high as 15,000 square feet have tested and delivered very well against competing formats, offering shoppers groceries, pharmacy items and fuel at competitive prices against dollar store, drug store and grocery rivals, he said.

While not a new concept – Wal-Mart has been opening typical grocery store sized markets since 1998 – Neighborhood Markets is now one of the fastest-growing formats in retail, with 60% growth and mid-single-digit comparable sales over the last couple of years, Simon said.

Target: Also Testing Smaller Format, But Proceeding Cautiously
Fellow discount retailer Target has been more deliberate in the national rollout of its smaller-format CityTarget stores. Although only two have opened so far in 2013, for a total of seven, the company sees immense promise in the new smaller format.

Read the entire article: http://www.costar.com/News/Article/Wal-Mart-Target-Roll-Out-Smaller-Urban-Store-Formats-to-Do-Battle-with-Dollar-Drug-Store-Rivals/152876?ref=100&iid=357&cid=FC4C5ECBFF14BCA42CFC3FCF0353A739

International Real Estate, Urban Planning

In Crowded Singapore, Real Estate Development Moves Underground

Singapore is running out of room for its rapidly growing population, leading real estate developers to look underground for opportunities to build new space. The population of the Southeast Asian city-state has grown rapidly, buoyed by decades of strong economic growth. Originally founded as a trading post of the British East India Company, the country has seen a massive increase in wealth and economic development since gaining independence in the 1960’s. Known as one of the four “Asian Tigers,” Singapore is now the among world’s 5 largest financial centers and is the fifth busiest port.

In order to accommodate its current population of 5.4 million, the island nation has already built high with skyscrapers and out by filling in coastline (as much as 1/5 of Singapore’s land is from ocean fill). But with projected growth of 1.5 million more people by 2030, the already crowded city is looking for new ways to accommodate demand for real estate. One strategy appears to be (quite literally) going underground.

In a recent blog post, Singapore’s National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan highlighted the intent to increasingly explore subterranean real estate opportunities. Mr. Khaw noted that many cities in Canada, Japan, and Scandinavia have exploited underground space to create extensive pedestrian passages with retail, offices, and entertainment uses. Mr. Khaw advocated for “pushing the boundary of usage – to experiment, to learn and to evolve practical innovative solutions – so as to prepare for the future.”

Jurong Rock Caverns in Singapore (photo credit: CNN)

Much of Singapore’s highway, public transit, and utility infrastructure is already located underground, but additional underground uses are starting to appear as well. One such project is the Jurong Rock Caverns, an underground fuel storage facility that will free up approximately 150 acres of developable land by moving the equivalent of six petrochemical plants underground.

Proposed Underground Science City (image: Singapore Business Times)

Another proposed project is for an underground “science city,” which was the subject of a recent feasibility study.  If built, the project would include 40 linked rock caverns for research & development facilities and data centers, with over 2 million sq. ft. of rentable space. Because the caverns would be free of noise and vibration, as well as easily sealed off, they would be ideal spaces for IT, biotechnology, and life sciences R&D. However, the space would be about four times more expensive to build than equivalent surface projects, a significant challenge even in land-deprived Singapore.

Development, Government Policy, Industry News, Real Estate Law, Urban Planning

How Will Supreme Court Decision in Koontz Impact Land Use Policy?

In a decision that many believe will have broad implications for how land-use agencies obtain concessions from landowners who wish to develop their property, the U.S. Supreme Court last month sided with a Central Florida property owner who challenged the terms of a state-issued development permit for wetlands property he owned. The 5-4 decision in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District overturned a Florida Supreme Court decision that found in favor of local regulators and against the landowner.

U.S. Supreme Court

In this case, Coy Koontz sought to develop a portion of 15 acres of property, which included some wetlands. He proposed to develop 4 acres of the property and offer the remaining 11 acres as a wetlands conservation area. The local Water Management District, however, refused to approve his project unless he made additional concessions. The St. John’s River Water Management District offered Koontz two options: either limit his development to 1 acre and devote the remaining 14 acres to wetlands preservation, or pay for off-site mitigation of 50 acres of wetlands elsewhere in the district. Koontz thought these conditions excessive, so he sued under a state law permitting him to seek damages. The Florida Supreme Court held that Koontz did not have a claim because existing court standards limiting local land use authority did not apply to the denial of permits or to monetary concessions.

Prior to the Koontz case, courts did not give heightened scrutiny to the denial of land use permits or the imposition of monetary concessions on developers by land use authorities. Heightened scrutiny had been limited only to “title exactions,” which are are a requirement that an easement or title to some of the property be dedicated to the public, such as a conservation easement to preserve a wetlands area. In Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, the Court established that title exactions must bear an “essential nexus” to the harm prevented, meaning land use authorities cannot require title exactions which are unrelated to the negative impacts created by a development. In Dolan v. City of Tigard, the Court found that exactions  imposed must be “roughly proportional” to the adverse impact of the project on the community. The Koontz decision extends those standards to include not just title exactions, but also permit denials and monetary exactions by land use authorities.

In writing the opinion for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito reasoned that Continue Reading

Urban Planning

CNU 21: The Pros and Cons of Form-Based Zoning Codes

Spencer Agnew attended the 21st annual Congress for the New Urbanism in Salt Lake City. He will do a series of short blog posts highlighting ideas and trends from this national gathering of urban planners, architects, and real estate professionals.

Day one at CNU 21 featured a lively discussion by a panel of experts on form-based codes. Form-based codes are a form of land-use regulation that “address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks.” Form-based code ordinances often include diagrams and visuals that display specific architectural design elements that are allowed. This approach to land-use regulation differs with conventional Euclidean zoning, which focuses on the micromanagement of land uses and the regulation of development intensity through abstract metrics such as floor area ratio, setback distances, and parking ratios.

Form-based codes have become popular with advocates of New Urbanism because they focus on the quality of the built environment rather than on the location of different types of land uses. Conventional zoning is often associated with suburban-style land use and development, due to the tendency of use-based zoning to separate land uses and minimize density while ignoring urban design. However, they have been slow to take hold among municipal governments; there are currently about 280 adopted form-based code ordinances in the U.S., impacting just 3% of the national population. Many of the adopted codes are optional, meaning that developers may choose whether to seek entitlements through the form-based code or through the pre-existing use-based zoning.

Form-based codes were intended to simplify land use entitlements and clarify expectations. If a developer proposed a project that met the form-based criteria, they would not need to apply for the various variances for parking, setbacks, and FAR which are commonly necessary with use-based zoning. Theoretically, the regulations would be simpler and easier to understand, and review processes would be faster. That hasn’t always turned out to be the case however. Despite the original intent to keep codes short and simple, many adopted form-based codes have been lengthier and more complex than the previous use-based zoning codes. Sandy Sorlien of the Transect Codes Council pointed out that many codes become bloated through the creation of too many zoning sub-districts or through the inclusion of explanatory language that is non-regulatory.

To date, there are no adopted form-based codes in Minnesota. The most prominent example of a large-scale adoption of form-based zoning is the Miami, which implemented its Miami 21 form-based zoning initative in 2010.