Better Way – Find It

By | April 1, 2021

“There is a better way – Find It” – a well known quote by Thomas Edison. Finding a better way to carry out my assignments, to meet challenges and solve problems has been THE guiding factor for all of my 60+ year professional career. Being self employed, I have always done things “my way” and I believe my clients and certainly the citizens of Minneapolis have benefited. Some Examples are:

Calhoun Square – The city wanted the Hennepin and Lake commercial area developed as the first community commercial center in the city. This prompted the convening of many groups – both proponents and opponents of a changed commercial area and began a 5 year period of planning, meetings, financing applications, meetings, suffering through the national interest rate of 18%, and more meetings – Finally success! Calhoun Square opened in 1984, to instant success! The conversion of a commercial area with too many automobiles and not much else to a charming pedestrian oriented destination with national prominence was complete.

The result –

  • A model for other areas undertaking redevelopment
  • A dramatically increased tax base for a portion of the city
  • Rejuvenation, mostly private, of SW Minneapolis
  • Demonstration that community area commercial developments can be successful and commercial development need not be limited to the suburbs or downtown

Special Service Districts

The problem: Snow falls on everyone’s sidewalks but some property owners delay or never remove it. The Uptown Business Association determined that the pedestrian oriented area could not tolerate these ice and snow covered sidewalks. Some of the property owners with the assistance of the Faegre Law Office (mainly Bob Hentges), created and implemented the first Special Service District legislation in Minnesota. The legislation, when implemented, provided services, such as snow and litter removal, to all properties in an area and required all properties to pay their fair share of the costs. This program has been a huge success. “There is no snow in Uptown!”

This special service district legislation has been subsequently used to inspire a variety of services to make commercial areas more attractive and sustainable.

Villa Apartments – Senior Assistance Program

The Community Housing and Service Corporation (CHSC); a non-profit subsidiary of the Minneapolis Federation for Jewish Services needed a place for seniors to live and receive services, including meals; as needed.

Minnesota Federal Savings and Loan had just taken back an eight building apartment complex on 34th and Emerson in south Minneapolis. Minnesota Federal desired to sell the buildings; Instead, on behalf of CHSC, I negotiated a net lease for all of the Villa Apartment Buildings – with the lease payment to Minnesota Federal less than the income to be received from the tenants when the buildings were fully leased. The CHSC promptly leased all of the apartments and operated the buildings successfully until the lease expired.

In addition to acquiring free control of eight buildings the CHSC instituted a service program called “Meals on Wheels” – one of the first such programs in Minnesota. Problem solved!

Greenway Gables in Loring Park

“Are you crazy?” “Who in their right mind, would want to move downtown and especially into that awful and unsafe Loring Park area? How could you even consider such a move with your daughter, Sarah, just finishing sixth grade?”

The following comments were almost a consensus from my relatives, friends, and my peers. My (to be) partner Bill Fine and I felt strongly that many people did want to live downtown; in fact we were both prepared to make the move. So what was the problem? Where and when would a home be available. The answer, Loring Park and when, TBD.

In the early seventies, the City of Minneapolis established The Loring Development District – a large area full of deteriorating properties and rampant problems. The buildings were demolished – assuring that new development would soon follow.

Due to the exorbitant interest rates in the country and the reputation of the area, lenders were unwilling to provide financing to developers for construction of the planned high-rise buildings and therefore new construction in the area lagged for months into years. The problem – without financing construction will not happen.

My partner and I would not give up. In spite of the reputation of the area, we felt that the proximity to the Walker Art Center, the Guthrie Theater, Loring Park and the IDS Building would attract buyers of well-designed townhomes. We also felt that these buyers would be willing to commit to financing their own townhomes. Both Midland Bank and Northwestern National Bank subsequently committed financing for the townhomes! Success! The next hurdle was to identify buyers for the homes. As a test, we installed a small sign offering the townhomes for sales. The response was phenomenal and all the townhomes were sold in response to the single small for sale sign. The entire Loring Development District then became alive and development soon followed.

They said we were crazy to even think of living downtown – near Loring Park! Crazy? There are now more than 50,000 people living downtown!