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Affordable Housing, Architecture & Design, Housing, Minneapolis / St. Paul Housing

Not just a building… But a home

A story of the Dorothy Day Center

In the beginning the Dorothy Day Center was meant as a training center, but because of a need in St. Paul seen by community members, Catholic Charities decided to help. It became a consistent resource for many homeless year round and soon had to turn people away due to space limitations.

Early last year, Catholic Charities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis announced the largest public-private partnership of its kind. Backed by broad support and funding from both public and private sources, the vision was for a new Dorothy Day Center – two buildings with temporary and permanent residence plus support structures to empower and dignify those in need.

In January 2017, Higher Ground St Paul opened its doors to a community in need. The 5 story building across from the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St Paul contains 193 single room and apartment style units. Already, these units are filled and assisted 473 people of all backgrounds from the elderly, veterans and young adults struggling to make ends meet.

Catholic Charities wanted to bring more dignity to their services in this renovation of the Dorothy Day Center. The new buildings include showers, storage lockers, and light meals. Some residents have said,

“Catholic charities is my backbone, they’re there to pick me up, they rescued me in a time when I needed them…”

– Markeus from room #327

“Catholic Charities is a blessing for everybody in need.”

– Camille Pasha

Phase 2 of the project is underway in St. Paul. The building will contain the Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence, and the goal is to be up and running in the next 12 months. This building will serve for more daily services such as emergency housing, transition housing, a health clinic, mental health services center, education guidance, veteran services, and employment services ranging from training to job placement. Truly a place for the benefit of all community members.

In Minnesota, the Dorothy Day Place project is the largest public-private social services collaboration in history. Funded with the support of local and state government and private sector leaders, the Dorothy Day Place project is a unique real estate development helping those in need.

The Shenehon Center for Real Estate of the University of St. Thomas is dedicated to advancing public and private interest in real estate issues as a resource and platform to the commercial, residential and corporate real estate segments. To learn more, please visit the Shenehon Center site at or email us at


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Commercial Real Estate, Development, Economics, Executive Insight Series, Housing, Industry News, Investment Real Estate, Real Estate Programs, Real Estate Trends, Think Outside The Box, Twin Cities Real Estate, Upcoming UST Events

Real Estate Executive Insight Speaker Series Bob Lux – Inside the Mind of A Developer


Real Estate Executive Insight Series

Bob Lux – Inside the Mind of A Developer 

Event Details Tuesday, March 28th 2017 5:30 p.m. University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis Campus Schulze Hall, Room 127

A candid conversation with industry leader Bob Lux, Founder Alatus LLC

Quality real estate development requires innovative thinking. Bob Lux, founder of Alatus LLC, has been in the real estate development and investment business for over 30 years. His company’s mission is to provide innovative solutions and high quality projects by wisely using his team’s talents and strengths to achieve the client’s vision and form a better community.   Lux will discuss the challenges, opportunities and trends in developing residential and commercial real estate in the Twin Cities. Lux will also share his views on the condo market and as the largest private owner of parking facilities in Minnesota Bob will outline his expectations for future parking and infrastructure needs in the downtown area.

Agenda 5:30-6 p.m. Networking 6-7 p.m. Presentation by Bob Lux

Register Today
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

To register use the following link:

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


Commercial Real Estate, Development, Economics, Investment Real Estate, Multifamily, Office Real Estate, Real Estate Trends, Retail Real Estate

AIA: Architecture Billings Index increases, Strongest Growth since 2007

In another sign of improvement in commercial real estate the Calculated Risk blog in a recent posting notes a continuing increase in the AIA Architecture Billings Index.  When architects get busier that usually indicates an increase in new construction is not far behind.

Arch. BillingsNote: This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment.

From AIA: Architecture Billings Index Continues to Improve at a Healthy Pace

With increasing demand for design services, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is continuing to strengthen. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the February ABI score was 54.9, up slightly from a mark of 54.2 in January. This score reflects a strong increase in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 64.8, higher than the reading of 63.2 the previous month – and its highest mark since January 2007.

Conditions have been strengthening in all regions and construction sectors for the last several months,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Still, we also continue to hear a mix of business conditions in the marketplace as this hesitant recovery continues to unfold.”

• Regional averages: Northeast (56.7), Midwest (54.7), West (54.7), South (52.7)

• Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (60.9), mixed practice (56.9), commercial / industrial (53.3), institutional (50.7)
emphasis added

This graph shows the Architecture Billings Index since 1996. The index was at 54.9 in February, up from 54.2 in January. Anything above 50 indicates expansion in demand for architects’ services.

Every building sector is now expanding and new project inquiries are strongly positive (highest since January 2007). Note: This includes commercial and industrial facilities like hotels and office buildings, multi-family residential, as well as schools, hospitals and other institutions.

According to the AIA, there is an “approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending” on non-residential construction.  This index has been positive for seven consecutive months and suggests some increase in CRE investment in the second half of 2013.

Development, Economics, Industry News, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate

The “A” Lot Shortage and the Buying Frenzy Intensify: What’s a Builder to Do?

The historically low inventories of homes for sale is creating new opportunities for home builders. The number of housing starts has continued to increase when compared to the last several years. While the number of housing starts is still considerably below the levels seen in the early to mid 2000’s, the increase in activity is creating an acute shortage of build-able lots in good locations. This shortage is putting an upward pressure on the price of quality lots. Prices in some areas are nearing pre-crash levels. The article below by Brad Hunter illustrates what is happening in other markets around the country. Home builders in the Twin Cities are saying they are seeing the same trend in our market as well.

house construction

Posted in National Housing Market   Written by Brad Hunter

As the lot feeding frenzy builds, more and more builders are scratching their heads at the prices they are being asked to pay for homesites.  Builders have a strong motivation to increase their community counts, but they are having to pay near-peak prices for lots in order to do so.  Decisions made by builders in the next six to twelve months will be absolutely critical to their ongoing financial health.

Last fall, we conducted a special nationwide study of all the public homebuilders’ lot positions, and we found that most of the public homebuilders had seen an erosion of their Vacant Developed Lot count (VDL).  In that special study, we looked at the VDL’s that were associated with the builders, whether owned or optioned, for all of their communities within our footprint.  We found that most builders saw a reduction in their lot inventory, but many of them started going longer on lots at that time.

We discovered the following changes in lot count, year over year:

Meritage’s lot inventory was down 22.4% from mid-2011 through mid 2012.

Lennar was down 18.2%

Standard Pacific, known as a land-LONG builder, was only down 4.3%.

Toll was up.

MDC was down 21.7%.

Beazer was down 20.2%

As a group, the publics were down in lot supply by 15.9% year over year.

Since this time, many builders who found a need to be LONGer on land have made significant progress in shoring up their lot positions.

The problem that has arisen is that they have had to buy at much higher prices than prevailed 12 months earlier.  In many markets, lot prices have jumped by 50% in a year.

The rebound in Phoenix home price and in lot prices is well known.  What is less well known is that NON-bubble markets like Houston and Dallas have also seen this kind of rebound.  In Texas, Fort Bend, Harris and Collin Counties have experienced a noticeable drop in available  supply of good lots relative to demand.  Here is a great case study:  In The Woodlands, in Houston, there has been a DOUBLING of lot prices in the past 12 months.  Lots in that community now run as high as $2,700 per front foot.

Even Atlanta, yes, badly over-developed and much-maligned ATLANTA, has seen a 30% increase in lot prices in the most desired neighborhoods.  That reflects the fact that the only lot transactions that are happening are in the “A” locations like South Forsyth.  We forecast that in another 18 months, there will be lot SHORTAGES in that submarket.  Many builders are jumping into Atlanta now, precisely because there are still some affordable lots there.

Lot prices in Naples/Ft. Myers have gone up 50%, and raw land values have doubled (and in some submarkets TRIPLED).  Of course, these percentage changes are based on low starting numbers, but the point remains that it costs a lot more to stay in the business in 2013 than it did in 2012.

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Development, Economics, Government Policy, Green Building, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Think Outside The Box, Urban Planning

A Sense of Place: Spaces Designed For People

This is a reposting of a blog entry that appeared recently on The Cornerstone Group blog(see link below).  It presents an interesting look at how project planners, architects, and developers can make cities a better place a better place to live.

Imagine a perfect day in your city or hometown.  What does it look like?  Where would you go?  How would you get there?  What would you do?  Who might you see along the way?

Place making, an evolving multi-disciplinary approach to planning, design, and management of public spaces, seeks to transform average spaces into high-quality places where people can relax, interact, collaborate, and participate.

After years of designing cities for the automobile, astute planners and developers are once again designing for people.

Cornerstone staff recently attended a Project for Public Spaces (PPS) event, where instructors gave participants insights about how great public spaces take shape.   

“Value created by the public realm will drive the success of a city.”

“How do we get from inadequate to extraordinary?”  The process starts with listening to the community, because neighborhood residents truly are the experts.  They know what is needed and what will or won’t work.

New York City has witnessed the redesign of several public spaces for greater pedestrian visibility and accessibility, which promotes increased activity and improves levels of public safety and comfort.  Setting back corners from the street edge, away from cars, can be an important aspect to the design.

Recognizing that cities and developers alike are strapped for cash, PPS advises for the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” approach.  Adding simple elements to plazas such as moveable furniture encourages people to customize a space for their specific use and group size, enabling collaboration.

Programming public spaces with a variety of activities from markets to fitness and games to performance arts and crafts
brings life to a place and attracts even more people to a neighborhood.  In New York City, Bryant Park was formerly home to several drug-dealing gangs and underwent a major renovation.  Committed to change, business owners supported redevelopment of the plaza through a special taxing district and created a more welcoming, accessible design, with the park booked morning, noon, and night with activities for all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Candy Chang, an artist and urban planner, recently spoke at the Walker Art Center and shared her vision for community spaces as inspiring places where citizens are both contemplative and engaged.  One of Chang’s most successful projects, a wall that encourages passerby’s to fill in the blank answering the question “Before I die I want to…” has expanded to cities on several continents.  A “Before I die” wall launched in Minneapolis in the Whittier neighborhood just hours before Chang’s arrival and was completely filled by eager citizens on the first day.

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Commercial Real Estate, Development, Executive Insight Series, Industry News, Property Management, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Retail Real Estate

Executive Insight Series: Boyd Stofer

Boyd Stofer - CEO Marquette Group

Boyd Stofer - CEO Marquette Group

“No one was doing anything, I mean no one was even talking about starting a new project. Sure I was scared, we paid too much for the building during the worst real estate market in my lifetime. However, we needed to play offense, someone had to make the first move, and it was us. That got a lot of attention, and we were able to get the building 90% leased before we started renovation, that’s just unheard of, and it worked to our benefit.”

The quotation above does a superb job in summing up the career, strategy, and philosophy of Boyd Stofer, president and CEO of the Marquette Real Estate Group. Over the past 32 years, Mr. Stofer has helped United Properties (Now part of the Marquette Group) grow into one of the most successful and profitable real estate development companies in the country. Attending a lecture from Mr. Stofer is somewhat like listening to a Harvard (one of his Ivy degrees) Economics professor give a semesters worth of lectures fast forwarded to a speed that condenses the information into one hour. During his talk it appeared as if he continued to talk as he inhaled, and didn’t miss a beat or misstate a figure as he outlined the micro and macro forces that are effecting the national commercial real estate market. His charisma stems directly from his incredible intelligence and ability to conceptualize and connect the vast set of variables that made up the contents of his talk, ending with the weaving of details to present the Marquette Group’s current standing and plans for the future. It’s no wonder that the Pohlad Family entrusts Mr. Stofer with a significant share of their fortune, as very few individuals can impart their razor sharp intellect and cunning in such a succinct and complete manor. It is highly unlikely that anyone in the room (full of real estate professionals, academics, and students) walked out questioning Mr. Stofer’s understanding of the real estate market, actually, it highly unlikely that anyone who meets him ever has doubtful thoughts.

Biography |

Mr. Stofer’s educational credentials mimics his career as nothing short of top tier. In 1971 he graduated from the Cornell School of Engineering, and followed it up with an MBA with Honors from Harvard. Immediately following his MBA program, Mr. Stofer was hired by Hines Interests, a national real estate development group based in Houston. After three years in Houston Mr. Stofer left and came to Minneapolis to join United Properties, then owned by the Hamm family. Since his hire, Mr. Stofer has led the companies development initiatives, and has amassed an amazing portfolio of work. In 1996 he was named president and CEO, since that time Mr. Stofer has grown and merged United Properties into what is now the Marquette Group. Today, the combined entities of the Marquette group employ over 1,000 people, has assets around $750M and services more than $40B worth of real estate loans. The current operational structure of the Marquette Group is the culmination of Mr. Stofer’s vision for a vertically integrated property firm that is unique in the services that it can provide. The vast array of real estate products that Marquette Group is far from novel, in fact it is probably the firms best financial hedge, in that the organization is prepared and capable of earning revenues in any market and any economic climate.

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Commercial Real Estate, Development, Executive Insight Series, Industry News, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Retail Real Estate, Uncategorized

Executive Insight Series: Bob Lux and the 14 Million Dollar Question About Block E

Bob Lux- Principal at Alatus Development

Bob Lux- Principal at Alatus Development

“So, what is the plan for Block E?”

A simple question that was definitely on every attendee’s mind at the most recent Real Estate Executive Insight Series. However, the answer isn’t so simple, and if it were not for Bob Lux’s (principal at Alatus LLC) charisma, intelligence, and experience in leading major, press-worthy development projects the answer might not have been as well received. As any gifted public figure would, Mr. Lux skirted the question, but in his sidestep, alluded to several important things concerning the future of Block E, as well as the kind of person Mr. Lux is. Before his answer can be assessed properly, it is important to understand Mr. Lux’s history, professional accomplishments, and his philosophy on development (and life).

Mr. Lux grew up in a Long Prairie, a small community in central Minnesota, a town that most likely does not have a building higher than the many crop silos that dot the agrarian landscape. Like many young men from small towns, Mr. Lux left home in search of success and the experience that can only be found in the “big city”. After earning his degree in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota, Mr. Lux returned to Long Prairie with the intention of starting a home building business in the area. He purchased a lumber yard with his father and began building farmers homesteads in the immediate area. Although this was quite different than the projects he would eventually oversee, Mr. Lux quickly learned the importance of adding value to differentiate his product, otherwise it would simply be a commodity.

After a short time at home the urge to return to city life became to great to resist, and once again, Mr. Lux left Long Prairie for the Twin Cities. His first employer, The Dominium Group, was developing high-density suburban real estate, which faced major issues surrounding obtaining approval from the community and local government for the rezoning of  land for this use. Suburban homeowners are very protective of their communities, and the amount of space that each homesite has was a reflection of the owners desire for privacy and quiet living. Mr. Lux’s first assignment was in Eagan, MN, where he faced opposition form the mayor as well as landowners surrounding the proposed site. To change the attitudes of the landowners surrounding the site, who were a critical stakeholder in the success of the project, Mr. Lux used a mixture of logic, emotional appeal, and financial acumen to reach out to each of the parties and work with them to develop a compromised plan that met the needs of everyone. In the end this project was approved, and through it, Mr. Lux learned one of the key lessons that has helped him throughout his career. During the lecture, he repeatedly cited the ability to listen to, and connect with people as the most important skill he has, and the main reason why projects fail or succeed.

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Commercial Real Estate, Development, Executive Insight Series, Industry News, Minnesota Real Estate Journal, Real Estate Trends, Retail Real Estate, Uncategorized, Upcoming Industry Events, Upcoming UST Events

Block E: A Deal Alatus Could Not Refuse

blocke7The short history of the building currently occupying the 600 block of Hennepin, know commonly as Block E,  in downtown Minneapolis is a staggeringly accurate metaphor paralleling the last decade of the greater real estate market. According to Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, the original cost of developing the site in 2001 (less the $36.25 million spent on the Graves Hotel which did not change ownership) was $105.75 million. When Alatus Development purchased the development in July, 2010 they paid a paltry $14 million, or roughly 13.23% of the original price. At the risk free rate of return (based on the 10 year T-bill which average 4.42% over the period) the investment in Block E would be worth $162.973 million, resulting in a savings of $148.973 million for Alatus in todays value. This investment appears to be a no brainer, but it is not without risk. Since opening, Block E has lost most of the anchor businesses that originally signed leases in the space including: Borders Books, Game Works, The Hard Rock Cafe, Applebees, and Hooters. The space which Game Works and Borders occupied is still vacant, presenting Alatus and Bob Lux, the lead developer on the project, with significant challenges in their attempt to turn the site into a successful retail operation. That said, the final price tag for the site was too attractive to pass on.

One significant factor that helped persuade Mr. Lux to move forward with the deal is the 550 heated underground parking spaces beneath Block E, at $25,455 per spot is inline with other parking structures around the city. Looking at the deal from this perspective, Alatus paid market rate for the parking, and got a deal sweetener that is quite impressive, approximately 213,000 sq/ft of retail space. Pricing it the other way, at $66 sq/ft, the retail space was purchased at a price that is almost inconceivable given Block E’s location at the heart of the downtown district and within walking distance of Target Field, The Target Center, and many of Minneapolis’s theaters and restaurants. Despite the obvious advantages in location, the previous owners at Block E have had serious difficulty maintaining profitable levels of business. Trying to figure out what to do with this space will certainly keep Mr. Lux up at night, until a solution that provides long term tenants can be derived. Continue Reading

Development, Industry News, Real Estate Trends, Upcoming UST Events, UST Program News

The Week: March 5-13

Here is an aggregated list of the most influential stories that are shaping the conversation about the real estate industry…

From the Mortgage Bankers AssociationMBA Weekly Application Survey – The MBA index of mortgage applications has risen at an adjusted rate of 15.5% over the week prior. Furthermore, the seasonally adjusted four-week moving average of the market index is up 2.7%.


Fed Household Net Worth - from Calculated Risk

From Calculated RiskQ4 Flow of Funds: Household Real Estate assets off $6.3 trillion from peak A telling statistic that shows the current total worth of American’s homes has fallen to levels comparable to vales after the dot-com bubble. Looking into the period before this extraordinary market period, the last time housing equity equaled a similar percentage of the total GDP, a measure that controls for inflation as well as other economic changes, was 1997.

From the Bigger Pockets Blog | Real Estate by the Numbers (March 5-13)- As noted in the last post, a report from Finance & Commerce, new foreclosure filings are down across the country, and new Mortgage applications are up. This combination is good news, signaling more Americans consider their financial prospects positive enough to buy a home, and on the flip-side, less Americans are losing their investments…

From the Economist | Bricks and Slaughter– A unique editorial from the Economist, that poses serious questions about the conventional wisdom surrounding the single largest investment most citizens in rich world countries make, their homes. Looking at the issue from the perspectives of debt financing; and the intertwined nature of the economy, mortgage prices + availability, and real estates prices the create an accelerating effect on a home buyers ROI, the editors argue that serious modifications are still needed before the market can truly stabilize.

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