Minneapolis Riverfront  Kelly Doran earned his stripes as a developer of several well-known local retail projects. But today Doran isn’t shopping for retail deals.

He is cutting a new path as a developer of multifamily residential projects, particularly apartments in southeast Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota campus. Doran says his current development work reflects the state of today’s market.

“You gotta go where you can go,” said Doran, principal with the Bloomington-based Doran Cos.

Now Doran has big plans for a piece of the former Pillsbury A Mill site in Minneapolis, where another developer had once pitched ambitious - but unrealized - condo plans. Doran is planning 375 high-end apartments in two phases.

“We’re excited about this project. We think it’s just a great site,” Doran said. “We’ve had a really good working relationship with the bank. We’re excited now that Dominium is coming in and doing the historic part of it. In a perfect world, we’d like to be under construction later this fall on the first phase.”


Plymouth-based Dominium is pursuing a separate project for approximately 200 apartments at the site.


Doran’s first phase call for 180 apartments. The timing of a second phase is contingent on “market conditions.” The project has the working name of Mill & Main, but Doran said that could change.


“These are not student apartments. They’ll be top-end apartments,” Doran said. “We’ll have a complete amenity package. It will be a first-class deal.”


Minneapolis-based Schafer Richardson had pitched ambitious plans for East Bank Mills - approximately 1,000 units of housing on an eight-acre site that includes some historic structures.


Bismarck, N.D.-based BNC National Bank started foreclosure proceedings last September. At the time, a notice of mortgage foreclosure sale published in Finance & Commerce listed the original mortgage at $19 million and the balance at $20.36 million.


Doran credits Schafer Richardson with helping to find new developers for the site even as they were losing control of the project.


“I’d have to give credit to Schafer Richardson. Obviously, the project that they saw going forward was not going to happen,” Doran said. “The people at Schafer Richardson were very honorable about it. They actually approached us first and said, ‘Would you like to look at this?’”


Kelly Doran During the condo boom a few years ago, many commercial developers started doing condo projects. But in the current market, the favored - and most financeable - projects are apartment buildings. Many residents are still wary of the bumpy housing market and are opting to rent instead.


Previously, Doran was president of the Edina-based Robert Muir Cos. The company’s retail developments included Woodbury Village, Tamarack Village (also in Woodbury), Oakdale Village and the retail portion of Silver Lake Village in St. Anthony.


But then Doran took a sabbatical from the business and waded into politics. He announced a run for U.S. Senate and then changed gears in a bid for the governor’s office. Doran, a Democrat, dropped out of the race in March 2006.


Doran returned to the industry in 2007, launching Doran Cos., which has construction, development and management divisions.


He said he still has time to put the Mill & Main deal together.


“We don’t have to close until later this summer, early fall,” Doran said. “We have time.”


Doran is confident that he can secure financing for the new apartment project.


“I’m pretty optimistic about it,” Doran said. “We’ll be the contractor on it; we’ll build it ourselves.”


Although he does not have any retail projects in the pipeline, Doran takes a “never say never” attitude about future projects.


“We would look at deals in retail if they can make economic sense,” Doran said.


Written by Burl Gilyard 
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