Owner and president of Wellington Management Inc.
In 1984, Steve Wellington moved from public development official to private developer. The Yale University graduate, who has a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, worked in the public sector for eight years, first as an administrative aide to St. Paul Mayor George Latimer and then as deputy director of St. Paul's Department of Planning and Economic Development.
He then launched St. Paul-based Wellington Management Inc. focusing on buying and stabilizing commercial properties and urban redevelopment. Today, his 4 million-square-foot portfolio is valued at $325 million. Projects include historic renovations of the Drake Building and Bandana Square in St. Paul. Current developments include Riverbend Business Center in St. Paul; Hi-Lake Triangle Apartments in Minneapolis, and Lyndale Station, an LA Fitness-anchored redevelopment of a former Kmart site in Richfield.
QWhy pursue development?
AI got pretty interested in it as a public official initially. I found it a nice blend of creativity and finance, and the people side of it is fascinating. It's always a cast of characters that bring a lot of passion and energy. I got a fellowship and went to Stanford Business School after working for the city .... It was really after that experience that I decided I wanted to try my talents more as an entrepreneur. It was a big shift, frankly, from public official. It wasn't an instant success. It was project by project.
QHow did you grow?
AComing out of the recession in the late 1980s/early 1990s, we acquired a lot of properties that were solid assets. Fortuitously, we expanded rapidly at the tail end of that recession, which was key to our initial growth.
QAnd you just kept acquiring and developing?
AYes. We focus 100 percent of our energy on the Twin Cities, and two-thirds of our development is urban redevelopment.
QWhy urban redevelopment?
AIt's very complex .... To us it looks like an interesting challenge. To many contenders, it may seem like a big headache .... I've had some people shake their heads when I tackle something like the Drake Building, which was a complete wreck."
QWhat opportunities did you see there?
AAn underserved market and a building that could be purchased very inexpensively, and it certainly has attracted tenants very consistently." (The century-old, renovated office building is nearly fully leased.)