Doran corners luxury market with bulldozers

Kelly Doran just opened 412 Lofts. His next project: Stadium Village.

Workers of Doran Company clear a hole for the underground parking ramp of the new student housing that will be built off of Oak Street Wednesday morning. Foreman Tom Etters said one of the main concerns was to keep the neighboring business Tofu House intact.

Erin Westover

Workers of Doran Company clear a hole for the underground parking ramp of the new student housing that will be built off of Oak Street Wednesday morning. Foreman Tom Etters said one of the main concerns was to keep the neighboring business Tofu House intact.

Anissa Stocks

Kelly Doran fell into real estate more than 25 years ago. Now, the 53-year-old developer has become a key name in luxury housing for University of Minnesota students.

In the past two years, Doran built two complexes on campus. His firmâÄôs third complex in Stadium Village started laying foundation this week, and negotiations are underway for a fourth property on University Avenue.

Moving from Dinkytown to Stadium Village for his new project, The Edge on Oak, Doran hopes to attract those who want a different kind of student housing.

âÄúSome students want to live in a house with 10 other kids. Some want to live in a nice apartment. WeâÄôre supplying them with more options,âÄù he said.

DoranâÄôs projects offer âÄúluxuryâÄù amenities, including underground parking and exercise rooms, as well as heightened security. He said his properties offer a new alternative for an area that has demanded higher quality housing for more than 20 years.

But the rent doesnâÄôt come cheap.

Two-bedroom units in the new project will rent for nearly $2,000 a month âÄî a price tag some say is âÄúoutrageous.âÄù

Some students believe quality shouldnâÄôt come with a hefty price.

âÄúThese apartment buildings are taking advantage of the students who have money and disadvantaging those who donâÄôt,âÄù University senior Alexandra Katopodis said.

Katopodis, who rents in a building on the corner of Fourth Street Southeast and 12th Avenue Southeast, said the newer complexes are forcing students out of the neighborhoods.

âÄúIf you canâÄôt afford the rent around here, then youâÄôre living on Como or even farther,âÄù she said. âÄúThe âÄòUâÄô is Dinkytown. Everyone should have the chance to live around [the area].âÄù

But DoranâÄôs apartments arenâÄôt the first luxury housing units to line the streets close to campus.

Developers like the Opus Group,whose Stadium Village Flats broke ground in May, are also filling the increased demand in the area.

That demand has prompted area landlords to renovate existing housing around the University, primarily in the Marcy Holmes, Southeast Como and Stadium Village neighborhoods.

Tim Harmsen, owner of Dinkytown Rentals, said there has been a pent-up demand for quality housing in the area for decades.

âÄúIf we improve the neighborhoods, we improve the campus,âÄù he said.

More affordable student housing complexes like Dinnaken Properties have survived despite the flux of new developments in the renter-dominated neighborhood. Property manager Yvonne Grosulak said there will always be a need for affordable housing.

Jim LaValle, Doran CompaniesâÄô vice president of development, said the firm is âÄúalways trying to make [apartments] more affordable.âÄù

But students living in DoranâÄôs complexes said the apartments are well worth the rent. In an informal survey given by the Minnesota Daily to about 15 student residents of the 412 Lofts âÄî one of DoranâÄôs properties âÄî all students said the luxury aspect was one of the reasons they moved in.

Out of more than 200 units available in DoranâÄôs properties on campus, only one apartment remains unoccupied.

Location, location, location

After receiving his MBA from the University in 1983, Doran spent more than eight years as a commercial banker. But by the early 1990s, he discovered opportunities in real estate. Doran became president of the Robert Muir Company, a Minneapolis firm that develops and constructs commercial retail properties.

Doran left the firm in 2006 and ran unsuccessfully for governor. He launched Doran Companies the next year.

âÄúWe havenâÄôt looked back since,âÄù he said.

Currently, Doran owns several residential properties around Minneapolis, and dozens of commercial and retail properties around the state.

With construction on a third campus apartment complex underway, Doran is in negotiations to purchase University Lutheran Chapel on University Avenue.

In 2009, DoranâÄôs $36 million renovation of the century-old Dinkydome caused a rift between some local business owners and developers.

Some businesses housed in the Dinkydome were âÄúdriven outâÄù during construction, Dinkytown Business Association President Skott Johnson said.

âÄúDinkytown is turning into a place that looks the same as any other corner of any other city,âÄù Johnson said.

DoranâÄôs new project replaces the iconic Oak Street Cinema and Golden Bowl restaurant in Stadium Village at 309 Oak St. Southeast. Both were torn down Sept. 30.

The cinema building did not meet historic designation standards, but could be considered a âÄúhistoric resource,âÄù city planner John Smoley said. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission approved the buildingâÄôs demolition in March.

Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents the area, called the theaterâÄôs demolition a âÄúreal shame.âÄù

But Doran said his project is simply meeting a demand. He said location is key to planning developments.

âÄúWe wouldnâÄôt build on [sites] that are 10 blocks away from campus,âÄù he said, pointing out that most students dislike a long commute.

âÄúStudents have grown up differently in this generation than in the past. TheyâÄôre used to living in their own bedrooms, having more resources,âÄù he said.