Doran's University-area apartments all up for sale, but Dinkytown presence lingers

Around the same time Doran Companies put five apartment complexes up for sale, the development firm snagged two Dinkytown sites, adding to its hefty portfolio of University of Minnesota-area properties.

Doran Companies, which is now selling all its luxury housing complexes near the University, recently made a $1.76 million deal on property that has faced up-and-down development drama for nearly a year.

The company now owns the commercial building that contains Publika Tea and Coffee Union and a single-family house adjacent to Burrito Loco Bar & Grill after a May 30 deal. And purchasing the sites — which were part of the plot for the recently-axed plan for a six-story, $25 million hotel — comes at around the same time the company decided to put about 1,100 bedrooms on the market.

“Sometimes it’s appropriate to sell and sometimes it’s appropriate to buy,” Doran Companies CEO Kelly Doran said.

‘Piece of the puzzle’

Doran said his development company is abandoning the hotel project, while “exploring” options for the recently purchased property.

Doran Companies will serve as the commercial building’s property owner and won’t make any immediate changes to the property, Doran said, while demolishing the house located at 410 13th Ave. SE to make way for new public parking.

Dinkytown Business Association President and Burrito Loco owner Greg Pillsbury said he’s critical of Doran’s plan with the house’s plot because the property’s size wouldn’t allow for more than six parking spots. Instead, he said, Doran might be moving forward with his original plan to make a two-lane driveway, which originally intended to lead to the hotel.

Doran’s new purchase is part of his original plan for the 125- to 140-room hotel.

“The third piece of the puzzle was the Camdi-Mesa-tattoo parlour building,” Pillsbury said. “He needs a continuous piece to build.”

Doran’s purchasing contract for the Mesa Pizza site expired this spring, and Dinkytown Wine and Spirits owner Irv Hershkovitz said that area is under a new contract with a different developer. But before any wrecking balls can swing, city planners are conducting a study determining the site’s historical value, blocking any new development.

In February, city leaders denied Doran demolition rights to the Mesa site and they hope to release the study, inadvertently spurred from his hotel plans, next year.

“I think [Doran Companies] bought it because it was a decent deal and … he was upset that everybody wouldn’t let him do his plan,” said Hershkovitz, who was the previous owner of the Publika building.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents parts of the University area, said Doran’s new purchase is “worrisome,” as he supports preserving Dinkytown buildings and resisting new development.

On the market

Meanwhile, Doran said he isn’t confident the list of luxury housing complexes will sell.

That list includes the Bridges — which is still under construction and opening this fall — and the Knoll, 412 Lofts, the Edge on Oak, Sydney Hall and Dinkydome properties, totaling 619 units and 1,100 bedrooms, according to the marketing flier for the sale.

“There’s a high probability those buildings won’t sell, or we won’t sell them,” Doran said.

As one of the first developers to hone in on the luxury housing market around the University nearly four years ago, Doran’s developments have stirred controversy.

Pillsbury said he’s not surprised the company is selling the complexes, citing the pushback he’s noticed from community members in terms of the apartments’ poor quality.

“A lot of the times [developers] sell their buildings to someone else,” he said. “But then we’re stuck looking at them for 40 years.”

Since first breaking ground on Sydney Hall in 2009, Doran’s company has built at least one new luxury housing property every year.

“We’re always looking for ways to enhance value,” he said. “And if there was a development opportunity that would allow us to do that, we’d certainly look at it.”

Pick up Wednesday’s issue of the Minnesota Daily for a more comprehensive look at Doran’s projects around the University.

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