Few real estate developments these days begin as barren stretches of land, blank canvasses on which to build.

In the case of 701 15th Av. SE., though, the land acquisition process required to clear nearly a full city block was positively daunting, according to Minneapolis-based CPM Development, which is building a 202-unit apartment complex on the site.

CPM needed to buy 17 parcels of land from 14 different property owners before moving forward with its $59 million student housing complex near the University of Minnesota. Both the firm's co-owner and Ted Abramson, the broker from CBRE Group who helped in the land acquisition process, called the deal "daunting."

"It was not a normal real estate transaction," said Daniel Oberpriller, a CPM partner. "It was sort of like herding cats, trying to get everyone on the same page." Ultimately, a partner in the project, University Student Living, paid close to $10 million for the parcels, according to Hennepin County property records.

Among the properties purchased for the project was the Rollins condominium complex, just 12 years old, as well as a hodgepodge of apartment buildings, duplexes and single-family homes. Demolition at the site, along 15th Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets SE. near the U's Bierman athletic field, began this week. A fall 2015 completion date is planned.

Oberpriller describes the project as a unique housing option for students in the Dinkytown and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods, which have undergone extensive — and sometimes controversial — face-lifts in recent years, mostly by private developers.

CPM has been a big player in that continuum, along with Doran Cos. and Opus Development Corp., also based in the Twin Cities. CPM has so far developed four apartment complexes (including 15th Avenue) — projects that represent almost $180 million in investment.

Other CPM projects include WaHu, an $83 million 333-unit apartment building that replaced the Arby's and CSL Plasma operation at Huron Boulevard and Washington Avenue SE., in the heart of the U's commercial district. The $12 million 56-unit Elysian apartments are located at 711 4th St. SE., and the 700 on Washington features 90 apartments in a project that cost about $24 million in Stadium Village (near Sally's Bar, which is returning when the complex opens this fall).

"It's been a great market for us," Oberpriller said.

When asked how the 15th Avenue project stands out from previous efforts, Oberpriller said it will offer "resort-style amenities that are different from what everyone else is doing." That includes study lounges, a bike-repair station, and a hot tub, fire pit, and outdoor grills in an inward-facing courtyard.

Jeffrey Schoeneck, the architect from Minneapolis-based Cuningham Group that designed the 15th Avenue project, said it "was based on the concept of Minnesota lake living. It's really a different approach then what you see on the student side."

The design took into account the city's master plan for 15th Avenue, a 3½-block stretch that experiences busy car and bike travel. The plan calls for the street to have more of a boulevard feel, said Cordelia Pierson, president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.

The idea behind the plan is to increase density along the thoroughfare and provide a welcoming streetscape for pedestrians, public transit and bicyclists alike.

The plan also calls for a range of housing types, including affordable projects that serve those working and attending the U, as well as the stabilization of the area's historic building stock. Throughout the approval process, city records indicate one resident who opposed the CPM project saying the area is losing its unique feel with the advent of so much new building. But the project received all its needed approvals nonetheless.