Tough sales don’t curb development

202 apartments could be added to Dinkytown next year.

Vescio's owner Frank Vescio prepares a take out order for a customer on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, in Dinkytown.

Amanda Snyder

Vescio’s owner Frank Vescio prepares a take out order for a customer on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, in Dinkytown.

Marion Renault


Frank Vescio has been working at his family-owned restaurant for more than 40 years. His father, grandmother, son, mother and daughter have all worked there at some point, too.

He said he’d like to keep Vescio’s Italian Restaurant that way — that’s why whenever a developer approaches him interested in purchasing his property, he always declines.

“I like doing what I do,” he said. “We’ve had this business since 1956.”

Dinkytown owners like Vescio have been offered money for their precious Dinkytown land frequently, said Skott Johnson, president of the Dinkytown Business Association.

“They get phone calls every day to sell for development,” he said. “There’s a frantic effort to buy up property here.”

Earlier this year, Opus Group coordinated the sale of land from three different Dinkytown property owners, and, pending city approval, it will build student housing in a corner of Dinkytown.

Laurel Bauer, one of three property owners who signed a purchase agreement with Opus in January, said Opus was the only developer who ever contacted her.

Development in Dinkytown, she said, will only be viable if multiple property owners unite and sell together — like she and two others did.

“Our project is attractive because it’s so much land … other business owners pretty much just own a building,” she said. “I think it’s a little bit more difficult for people to come in and have that vision of anything that’s much larger than what’s already there.”

Individual property owners protect Dinkytown, Bauer said.

Amany Sakallah, a manager at Wally’s Falafel and Hummus whose brother manages the restaurant’s property as well as two others in Dinkytown, said the family has no plans to sell any of their properties.

“You couldn’t buy him off,” she said. “It’s not about offering enough; it doesn’t matter how much they offer.”

202 more apartments in 2014

For the past five years, Daniel Oberpriller has been scouting 15th Avenue Southeast for a suitable location to build a new apartment complex.

In the last month, he finally coordinated a sale between 14 different property owners, allowing him to move forward with his plans for a 202-unit, six-story building.

His company, CPM Property Management — which is behind upcoming student housing projects including WaHu and The Elysian — has combined 17 different parcels on the outskirts of Dinkytown, in what Oberpriller calls a “once in a lifetime deal.”

Oberpriller said coordinating contracts between 14 different property owners was a challenge.

“It’s almost impossible to assemble this many owners and get them on the same page,” he said. “It doesn’t really ever happen like that.”

The development would replace townhomes and several small rental houses on the corner of 15th Avenue Southeast and Seventh Street Southwest, across from the University’s Gibson/Nagurski Football Practice Facility.

CPM is looking to begin construction as soon as this summer and to open in fall 2014. Tenants were informed of the sale on Wednesday.

The quick turnaround, Oberpriller said, is because of the complexity of the sale.

“We’re trying to close and bring everything into fruition in 90 days because of how many people are involved,” he said.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association President Doug Carlson said he would like to see some changes to the building’s design before plans move forward.

Developments that are mid-height and up to the sidewalk, he said, are more obtrusive. Carlson said he’s seen that kind of development and doesn’t want it in Marcy Holmes.

“You’re walking down canyons,” he said. “My preference would be to have a development that’s taller, maybe 20 stories high, but set back.”

CPM has submitted a land-use application to the city and will attend a Planning Commission Committee of the Whole meeting May 9 to informally get feedback on the project’s initial plans.