General Motors officials and the U.S. House minority leader have checked out a classic mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul as a place to rent for their entourages to stay during the Republican National Convention in September.
A national trade association for credit unions has booked a mansion down the street.
Arianna Huffington's people are negotiating to rent an elegant two-bedroom condo in downtown St. Paul.
The very rich and the not-so-rich are putting their homes up for rent during the convention, hoping to bring in a little extra folding money.
It appears they're having mixed results.
Craigslist, the Internet classified advertising giant, has a couple hundred listings for RNC rentals but only a smattering of takers so far, according to a spot check of people trying to rent their homes.
Some people, hoping for a quick killing, are overpricing their digs. Others are so far out of the way that conventiongoers aren't interested.
However, some homeowners near the Xcel Energy Center, site of the convention, are landing high-priced deals. Some are represented by a well-connected company that includes former Republican apparatchiks and formed to snag convention business.
One outfit is "Take '08 Events," headed by Erich Mische, former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. Ryan Kelly, the company's director of client services (and son of former St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly), says one reason for the demand for high-end homes is there aren't many "tier-one" hotels in the Twin Cities. Those are the ones with plush accoutrements that CEOs are accustomed to.
Dick and Nancy Nicholson, who own a mansion on Summit, put a second mansion they bought for their children on the RNC rental block.
Designed by the famous architect Cass Gilbert, it has 8,000 square feet, seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms.
Nancy Nicholson, whose husband is a descendant of 3M's founder, said representatives of General Motors and U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, House minority leader, toured the house. She declined to disclose her asking price.
The Nicholsons will also rent out a smaller house on Summit and their own mansion for parties. "This is a triple whammy for us," she said.
Steven Anderson, a pianist who operates a music business, is renting out his own mansion on Summit Avenue, to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), a trade association. Asked what he's charging, Anderson said "a happy price to displace a family of seven."
Anderson said he plans to sleep in the basement and be a "sort of caretaker" for his renters as well as play the piano at their parties. He said he's had to fend off criticisms from neighbors. "They think we are doing something evil because we are renting it to the Republicans," he says, "and we are not renting out to the Republicans. We are making some money to pay for the property taxes."
Charles Stander, an accountant, put his eight-bedroom, 5,600-square-foot house up on Craigslist for $10,000 and is sealing a deal with an environmental trade association. The house is 1.3 miles from the Xcel, he said in his ad, and offered 24/7 van service. It's his own van and he plans to sleep in the basement, ready to drive his guests anywhere. He and his wife will replace towels as needed and set out a daily buffet breakfast.
Will he change the sheets? "We don't intend to; they are a clean energy group," he said.
Michelle Pedersen said her husband is cutting a deal with representatives of Huffington of huffingtonpost.com for their downtown St. Paul condo they put on Craigslist for $4,900.
She's a photographer, he's an actor and they were ambivalent about renting to Republicans "because we are such lefties, but we are also super greedy." So they were "psyched" when Huffington came calling.
Some with homes on Craigslist aren't having much luck.
"A lot of people start off with unrealistic expectations," says Kelly of Take '08 Events. "A rambler out in Woodbury is not going to be selling for tens of thousands. People want to be fairly close to one of the two downtowns." There seems to be little interest in lake homes.
J.B. Larson, who works in property management, said he's only gotten one nibble on an ad he ran for a condo loft for $3,500 on Washington Avenue S. in Minneapolis. The caller wanted to pay $2,000, and Larson turned him down.
Rick Sand, who's in real estate, advertised his Victorian townhouse near the Xcel for $25,000 but got no takers. "It was overpriced," he said. "When it gets closer, I'll bring the price down."
Staff researcher Roberta Hovde contributed to this report. Randy Furst • 612-673-7382