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UST Team to Compete in the Gerald D. Hines / ULI Student Urban Design Competition

photo source: Minnesota Vikings

The 2013 Hines Competition is underway!

One hundred sixty teams from 70 universities in the United States and Canada are currently developing solutions for a site in Minneapolis’s Downtown East neighborhood, near the site of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium

The ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition, now in its 11th year, is an urban design and development challenge for graduate students. The Hines Competition challenges multidisciplinary student teams to devise a comprehensive development program for a real, large-scale site. Teams of five students representing at least three disciplines have two weeks to develop solutions that include drawings, site plans, tables, and market-feasible financial data.

The University of St Thomas team members are  Thomas McElroy, full time MBA student; Thomas Strohm, MSRE student, Michael Richardson, Master of Urban and Regional Planning  student at the University of Minnesota; Amber Hill, Master of Landscape Architecture student at the University of Minnesota; and John Briel, Master of Urban and Regional Planning  student at the University of Minnesota.

This is an ideas competition; there is no expectation that any of the submitted schemes will be applied to the site. The winning team will receive $50,000 and the finalist teams $10,000 each.

The ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition is part of the Institute’s ongoing effort to raise interest among young people in creating better communities, improving development patterns, and increasing awareness of the need for multidisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges. This competition is an ideas competition; there is no expectation that any of the submitted schemes will be applied to the site. The winning team will receive $50,000 and the finalist teams $10,000 each. Winners that will advance to the next round of the competition will be announced by the end of February.

Development, Industry News, Real Estate Trends

Looking for a Victory? The Vikings May Want to Try Left Field…

Yes. Although we are academics and we spent more time reading through investment prospectuses and development plans than watching Sports Center, we are well aware there is no left field in football. However, after the lackluster performance of the Purple and Gold last year, Mr. Wilf and Co. may want to look to their peers on the other side of downtown (the ones who do have a left field). Despite the sluggish start for the Twins (there is still time!), one thing is certainly not subpar about Minnesota sports currently, and that is Target Field. By any standards, the eight acres that only five years ago was a parking lot, is now one of those landmark buildings that represents the identity of the entire state.  All good buildings, businesses, ideas, etc. start somewhere, with someone, and even though everyone probably has had thousands of big ideas, few people get to see them realized. That is the hard part about great ideas, plainly put, it’s really hard to turn them into anything. The men who came up with the idea for Target Field, Bruce Lambrecht & Dave Albersman spent years working on moving the Twins to, what is now Target Field. (for that story click here). lucky enough for the Vikings, the same two men are fired up and at it again. Lets just hope the Vikings, and the politicians who are responsible for this decision, decide to pay attention.

Proposed Stadium at the Farmers Market Site, courtesy of Bruce Lambrecht

Proposed Stadium at the Farmers Market Site, courtesy of Bruce Lambrecht

The similarities between the Viking’s current situation and the Twin’s search for a new home are eerily similar. The Vikings have, for several years, voiced concerns about playing in the Metrodome, and were fairly clear that they were not interested in renewing their lease at the Metrodome. The “fairly” was clearly removed on December 12th, of last year when this happened… During the offseason several plans have emerged, and sites proposed for development of a new stadium. Recently, the talk has been narrowed down to three sites, (1) Rebuilding on the current Metrodome property, (2) A stadium in Arden Hills, a suburb 10 miles north of St. Paul, and (3) Developing a site near Target Field, on what is now a series of small buildings, storage facilities, and the Minneapolis farmers market. Mr. Lambrecht and Mr. Albersman are the driving force behind the third option, and have begun the same arduous process that the probably swore they would never start again. Each of the three site has positives and challenges, and will undoubtably require a great deal of planning and foresight if anyone is going to become nearly as successful as Target Field.

The first major battle, and the one that causes the strongest emotions is who, how, and what will pay for this project. Two recent studies looked at the total cost of developing, building, and creating the infrastructure necessary for the project, Finance & Commerce reports,

An analysis from the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission says the “hard and soft” construction costs for the Metrodome and Arden Hills sites are about the same – $825 million for the dome site, $859 million for Arden Hills. However, the Arden Hills location would require up to $339.5 million in highway, parking, pedestrian access and utility improvements, which brings the total price tag to $1.2 billion, the analysis said. By contrast, the Metrodome location needs a far more modest $29.9 million in such improvements, for a total cost of $895 million. Also on Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton released the findings of a separate analysis that says it would cost up to $240 million for the transportation improvements needed to accommodate the Arden Hills location. Dayton said any state contribution to the project would be capped at $300 million – including the cost of road improvements.

“I support the project in either location up to that amount,” Dayton said. “If one project is more expensive than the other, the Vikings are going to have to make up that difference unless the local partner does.” To read the entire story click here

Although the Farmers Market site was not included in this study, Mr. Lambrecht has provided estimates that would place the total cost of the site in the same range as the Metrodome. It is also important to note that at this point in the search for a new Twins Ballpark, Mr. Lambrecht’s parking lot was barely even in consideration. The key behind Mr. Lambrecht’s plan is the same as it was for Target Field, in that an accessible urban sports venue is valuable to everyone in the state, even those who could care less about football. Mr. Lambrecht was right the first time, and has since quieted almost everyone of the many critics, who thought a new Twins stadium was too expensive, the site was too small, and any other reason imaginable. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope he is able to repeat history, and make lightning strike twice in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

This is the first in a series of stories about this topic, which is sure to dominate headlines in the sports, real estate, local/metro, and front page of the states newspapers (if anyone still reads them…) Check back for more.


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

Executive Insight Series- Dennis Doyle

Dennis-Doyle“My life is lived from the inside out. My principle values, experience and leadership come from the inside, and guide my life on the outside. It’s an inside job. It seems that everyone is wired differently. Some of us want to make a lot of money, while others want to save the world and help people. You CAN do both! Everyone needs to figure it out. Work is a huge part of it. If you find the right work and path, life can be a real joy and blessing.”

Dennis Doyle, Executive Chairman of the Welsh Property Trust, started his career in real estate as an adolescent who spent his summers working construction for his neighbor, George Welsh. During that period, Mr. Doyle’s passion for construction and development grew exponentially, part of the credit, according to Mr. Doyle, belongs to his older brothers who forced him to work harder to keep up. He left real estate briefly to attend college on a football scholarship, with the intention of becoming a coach, however Mr. Doyle soon realized that this was not his true goal, and returned home to continue his career developing and constructing buildings. In 1977, Mr. Doyle and Mr. Welsh (same childhood neighbor) entered into a handshake agreement, that formed the Welsh Companies, and has shaped the last 30 years of Mr. Doyle’s life. Reflecting on this story, and on his subsequent career, Mr. Doyle lamented,  “I love being able to put my personal touch on buildings, and am very fortunate to have found my life’s passions and being able to continue working in this field.”

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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, Industry News, Property Management, Real Estate Trends, Residential Real Estate, Retail Real Estate, Uncategorized

Weekly Recap

A collection of the most important stories this week that are making headlines in the real estate industry

From the Chicago Tribune | Home improvement sales rebound- Lowe’s, the nations second largest home improvement retailer, is reporting a 15% increase in seasonal hiring, a sign that the home improvement business is stabilizing ahead of the greater real estate industry. This appears to be another strange aftereffect of the real estate crisis, with the article attributing the increase in home improvements to existing home owners opting to fix up their old homes, as opposed to buying a new home. Overall 1Q 2011 spending is expected to increase 9.1% to $125.1 billion.

From Calculated Risk | CoreLogic- House prices declined 2.7% in February, prices now 4.1% below 2009 lows- The bottom of the slide in housing prices is still being determined, as the most recent numbers from CoreLogic paint a dreary picture for potential home sellers. Overall, the mean selling price of homes across the country continues to plummet, with a decline of 6.7% in February 2011 compared to February 2010. However, as this blog and many other real estate analysts are pointing out, the news isn’t as grim when the market is properly quantified. Currently the percentage of distressed homes being sold is significantly higher than market averages, causing an overall decline in the mean home prices across the country. According to Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic.

“When you remove distressed properties from the equation, we’re seeing a significantly reduced pace of depreciation and greater stability in many markets.  Price declines are increasingly isolated to the distressed segment of thee market, mostly in the form of REO sales, as the stock of foreclosures is slowly cleared.”

CoreLogic has adjusted figures (which exclude the sale of distressed properties) showing a decline of .1% over the same period, which continues a trend towards stabilization and hopefully indicates positive gains in home owners equity moving forward. to read the entire report click here.

From the Star Tribune | Almost half of all March closed home sales in the Twin Cities were foreclosures- Relating to the previous article, the Star Tribune reports that 43% of home sales in March were distressed properties. This sent the median home price into a nosedive, dropping 15% to $140,000, however excluding distressed properties, the picture is a little brighter. Looking at previous March sales, without including 2010 (the new home owner tax credit created unusual demand), sales in March 2011 were up 6% and 15% for 2009 and 2008 respectively.

mallvacancy


From the Wall Street Journal | Malls face surge in vacancies- From a record low vacancy rate of 5.1% in 2005 to todays less rosy 9.1%, mall owners are facing increased pressure due to the changing shopping behavior of Americans, as well a loss of customers in the exurbs of America’s largest cities.  One segment that appears to be regaining traction is the upscale mall industry, that has reduced its nationwide vacancy to 7%, although this is still above what is considered healthy in the sector. As technology and connectivity spreads to more individuals, retailers will be forced to ask serious questions about their business models, and the need for massive retail space in as many locations as possible.



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

Executive Insight Series, Property Management, Retail Real Estate, Upcoming Industry Events, Upcoming UST Events, UST Program News

Is a casino in the future of Block “E”? Hear about future plans from owner Bob Lux at the Real Estate Executive Insight Series – April 5

Bob Lux, Alatus LLC

Bob Lux, Alatus LLC

Real Estate Executive Insight Series:

Real Estate Acquisitions, The Story of Block “E”

The Real Estate Executive Insights Series is presented by the Opus College of Business MSRE program. This series invites speakers from the real estate industry to provide valuable information and discussion about hot topics and current trends. This is a free program and is open to the public.

With the addition of Target Field and continued popularity of the theater district and downtown restaurants, Block E sits in the middle of a vibrant Minneapolis neighborhood.  This gives Alatus LLC a great opportunity as the new owner of the Block E entertainment complex.  Bob Lux of Alatus LLC will talk about plans for the new acquisition and their other downtown real estate. 

Date: April 5
Time: 5:45 – 7 p.m.
Minneapolis Campus, University of St. Thomas
Cost: Free

Learn more and RSVP Today »