The building’s story starts with a small 0.6-acre site on West 7th across from the Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was not an obvious site for apartments. Brian Farrell, Principal of Northland Real Estate Group had been working with the Bonfe Automotive family to explore the next chapter for the property. The site was comprised of multiple small parcels with an alleyway that was home to several electrical transformers. “It wasn’t an obvious site,” recalls Farrell. Of course, there are always hurdles, but the proximity to Children’s and their need for attainable housing led Brian to believe he could solve the challenges and transform the property. “We enjoy challenges. The bigger the challenge, the more we can achieve. Especially on sites that have failed previous redevelopment attempts, like this one.”
Farrell brought in Ackerberg, friend and fellow Madison graduate to co-develop the property. The two first learned to re-envision real estate from Professor Graaskamp, for whom the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Real Estate School is now named. The two had also recently completed a successful historical renovation project together, also in St. Paul. The design needed to be efficient, affordable, and have adequate parking, as well as attract the workforce from nearby Children’s, United Hospital, the Science Museum, and staff from nearby hotels. All this seemed simple enough, but in an urban setting, projects of this nature rarely pencil out. “We had to find a way to bring the proforma from in the red to in the black,” recalls Farrell, referring to the old ways accountants would use red ink to show losses versus profits. The turning point came by embracing bold new construction techniques in two ways: (1) implementing an automated, stacked parking structure and (2) by using volumetric modular construction for Floors 3 through 7. Neither had been attempted at this scale in the Upper Midwest. The team would need the glue only Alvera Franceschi and her memory could provide.
Read the entire article at Minnesota Real Estate Journal