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Longtime developer George Sherman has been focusing on residential properties in downtown St. Paul for decades, though the capital city contains only a fraction of his properties.
He owns five hefty downtown structures, including Sibley Court and Sibley Park, Lyons Court, the Rayette Lofts and the Straus Lofts.
But outside the Saintly City, a good three-quarters of Sherman’s portfolio is multi-family housing, stretching from Duluth, Minn., to Des Moines, Iowa, St. Louis and Kansas City.
Sherman grew up in the Twin Cities area, took a short stint in Colorado for college, then returned. He now lives in Edina, with his business — Sherman Associates — headquartered in Minneapolis.
He started in real estate in 1978, developing or rehabbing a mix of for-sale and rental housing. He is perhaps most widely known in St. Paul for developing the West Side Flats, a 180-unit luxury apartment complex across the river from downtown. Sherman has received initial zoning approval to build an additional 270 or so units for the project, starting in the late fall.
Sherman also has been in the news for lengthy renegotiations with West St. Paul over a condo and retail project along South Robert Street. The retail portion of the project remains undeveloped.
When asked about working with city officials, Sherman said there’s a notable difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“St. Paul has more of a forceful role in the planning process,” Sherman said. “St. Paul spends a lot more concentrated effort on design, fitting in their master plan,” whereas Minneapolis will often allow a developer to come up with a design or plan before getting involved.
“In Minneapolis, a lot of the fabric is new, a lot of things are torn down. St. Paul has more of, ‘we want it to be more of the fabric that’s been here.’ Iconic, that’s what they want, and that’s fine — I don’t think you want the two cities to be the same.”
As for downtown’s attractions, Sherman touts the area’s residential strengths.
“People love living there. (Compared to Minneapolis) the street grid system and the building fabric, it’s a little more livable from the point of view that you can walk around. You can pull up a chair and talk to people.”
“Minneapolis right now is more like Chicago: more dense, congested. They don’t want to see slow or quiet.”
Development-wise, Sherman sees more residential-focused retail fitting in: “Restaurants, yoga studios, bike shops, the things around where you can actually live, instead of (businesses that require) high-traffic, more concentrated intensity.”
That said, Sherman noted this year’s Jazz Fest was the best on record. He added that for him, the Green Line had “met expectations.”
When asked what downtown St. Paul is missing, Sherman had a quick answer: “Jobs. The job market, that downtown job market. It’s not a growth job market. That does have an impact on rental rates, but it’s livable. There’s the state government and hospitals, but major employers are more limited.”
Tad Vezner | April 7, 2016