This isn’t your average remodeling project. During the next couple of weeks, a federally funded team of contractors and building scientists are transforming a modest house in north Minneapolis into a demonstration house that will be used to educate builders, contractors and housing program managers about the latest construction technologies.
The house is owned by Urban Homeworks, which is also providing some of the labor. Building scientists from the University of Minnesota are among 10 teams from across the country that were selected by the Department of Energy’s Building America program to explore new ways of increasing the energy efficiency and durability of houses. The NorthernStar Team will focus on three key elements of the house.
The foundation and roof are being retrofitted with external insulation and moisture management systems that don’t require replacing the roof decking or excavating the foundation. And the house will get an innovative new high-efficiency space and water heating system.
The house, which will eventually be sold, is at 1401 16th Av. N. in Minneapolis. If you have questions about the techniques you can stop by the house, or call Tom Schirber, a fellow at the U’s Cold Climate Housing Center, 651-276-0670 Here's a pic taken this week by Shirber showing crews that are working with Urban Homeworks tearing off the roof in preparation for a new external insulation system.
The U.S. Census Bureau said this morning the number of new housing starts, including all building types, during August fell 14.4 percent from the previous month largely because fewer apartments and other kinds of multifamily housing were built. That report doesn't include metro-level data, but earlier this month we reported that the construction scene in the Twin Cities showed a similar decline in annual and month-to-month permit activity during August due largely to fewer permits for apartment buildings, which accounted for 26 percent of all new units compared with a 50 percent average for the year.
Nationwide last month there was only a slight decline in the number of new single-family houses, which were down 2.4 percent compared with the previous month. Total starts were 8.0 percent higher than August of last year, and single-family starts were 4.2 percent above the year-ago pace.
Brad Hunter of Metrostudy said that new home production has been gyrating month-to-month, but is likely to end "flat." That's despite the strongest builder confidence in nine years, as reported earlier this week by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. Hunter said that increase is a sign that home buyers are adjusting to higher home prices. They're also feeling more confident about their personal finances.
This chart from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities shows construction activity for the Twin Cities metro using data from the Keystone Report.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of the “The Splendid Table,” and her husband, Frank, are ready to downsize, so they're ready to sell.
The eight-bedroom brick house was built in 1911 and is on a double lot in Crocus Hill neighborhood in St. Paul. And yes, it has a big kitchen, including "Babe," a six-burner, 17,500-btu Wolf range she bought with her first royalty check.
Here's how Kasper described the house during a 2008 visit with my colleague, Connie Nelson: "It's a bastardized neo-classical with a 1950s rambler - complete with a picture window - stuck on the front. It's wacky. And big. There are parts of this house I haven't seen in three years."
Here's what attracted her to this house? "We bought it in part for the dining room. When it's gussied up and there are candles everywhere, it's all about romance. And it was the cheapest house in the neighborhood."
Her favorite room: "My kitchen is home to me. It's a working kitchen and most working kitchens aren't very glamorous. When you're in a kitchen every day, you start to understand what's necessary and how some things that look good aren't going to work."
Starting today, the 24/7 population of downtown Minneapolis will get a little bigger. The first wave of residents is moving into the Nic on Fifth apartment building, a 26-story tower at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 5th St. where rents range from $1,300 for an “alcove” unit to about $2,900 a month. Penthouses rents start at $3,500 a month.
A representative for the company said the building is 40 percent pre-leased, and nearly everyone who’s moving in signed up sight-unseen. At this point, about 60 percent of those renters are baby boomers.
The building has 20,000 square feet of street and skyway level retail space and 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities on the sixth floor, including a garden roof deck with pool and spa, a rooftop dog run and fitness and yoga studios. No retail tenants have been announced.
The Nic is just one of several significant downtown buildings opening this fall. The first residents moved into Vélo, another Opus project, on July 15. And on Aug. 2, the first residents of the 36-story LPM Apartments tower on the edge of Loring Park started unpacking.
Across town near the University of Minnesota campus, Opus recently completed the Venue at Dinkytown, Opus’ third mixed-use student housing project since 2012. The 246-bed, luxury student housing project is 97 percent leased. Starbucks, Great Clips and Gina+Will, a new concept clothing store from Goodwill, are on the main level.
A cooling housing recovery hasn't made it any easier to find a spot to build a house in the Twin Cities. In fact, lot inventory is at the lowest level since since early 2007, according to a 2nd-quarter survey from the Twin Cities office of Metrostudy, a national real estate research company. There are now 20,690 vacant developed lots throughout the seven-county metro, 7.9 percent fewer than last year.
In his report, Chris Huecksteadt, regional director of Metrostudy’s Minneapolis/St. Paul region, explains it this way: “The recent increase in new home demand has created a run on desirable vacant developed lots throughout the metro region. Lot supplies across the metro area are down to just 25.6 months, below pre-housing boom figures. As activity continues to increase we will need to see substantial lot deliveries across the metro in order to meet current demand."
Other hightlights from the report:
A Chicago/Milwaukee development duo is planning to convert the historic Jackson Building in the North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis into a 120-room hotel with a restaurant/bar aimed at creating "an enclave for locals and appeal to travelers in search of an authentic, one-of-one Minneapolis experience."
The yet-to-be-named hotel could become only the second hotel in the North Loop is and is slated to be developed by a joint venture ( "300 Washington Avenue LLC") between Milwaukee-based Fe Equus Development, which developed the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, and the Aparium Hotel Group of Chicago, which will manage the hotel and restaurant/bar.
The dark red brick building has been a fortress-like presence at the bustling corner of Washington and Third Avenues since the very late 1800s and was at one time a farm implement showroom and warehouse. Even as the warehouses around it have been redeveloped, the five-story building has been vacant for years. Wayzata Partners was the most recent owner of the building, but their attempts to convert the building into 70 market-rate rental apartments failed and the building went back to the bank.
The 300 Washington Avenue LLC bought the 93,000 square-foot building at the end of July from MinnWest Bank for $4.6 million and is working with Twin Cities-based ESG Architects on plans for the conversion.To finance the project, the group plans to apply for historic tax credits, and says they've lined up a lender to finance construction. Plans have yet to be submitted to the city, but construction is expected to begin next year in time for a 2016 opening.