The Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame has three new members, each of them representing distinct and diverse segments of the industry. Dan Dolan, Larry Laukka and James Solem will receive their awards, established by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, on Nov. 5, at the Golden Valley Golf and Country Club. Here’s a snapshot of their accomplishments, followed by some additional perspective on the industry from Larry Laukka.
Dan Dolan has been in the real estate business for more than 50 years and is credited with helping improve the professional and ethical standards in real estate in part by promoting and employing women in real
estate sales. His development projects include Evergreen, an upscale 275-acre housing development in Woodbury, and the Oakdale Crossing Business Park. Dolan has also been involved with several community organizations. He helped facilitate the merger of Cretin and Derham Hall high schools, was a fundraiser for the University of St. Thomas and served as King Boreas XLII during the 1978 St. Paul Winter Carnival.
For more than 40 years, James Solem was a leader in the world of real estate finance and public policy and supported the development of rental and ownership housing for low- and moderate-income households.
From 1970 to 1978 he was the executive director of the Minnesota State Planning Agency and served as commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency from 1978 to 1994. He was appointed to that position five times by three Minnesota governors. As regional administrator for the Metropolitan Council from 1994 to 2000, Solem led long-range planning for transit, wastewater, parks and community development in the 7-county metropolitan area. And from 2000 to 2006, while serving at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, he led the effort to bring new ideas to the issues of affordable housing and regional growth. Solem is now retired from the Metropolitan Council, but is active with consulting and volunteering. He chairs the boards of the Community Reinvestment Fund, the Common Bond Housing Corporation and the Greater Minnesota Housing Fun.
Larry Laukka has been in the real estate business since 1962 mostly as builder and developer, but he’s also helped lead the design, development, financing, construction and marketing of more than 6,000 housing units and homesites, and management of about 3,000 owner-occupied townhouses and condominiums throughout the Twin Cities metro. He’s held several leadership roles, including president and director of the Minneapolis Builders Association (MBA), senior life director of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and founder of the Minnesota Housing Institute (MHI), which promoted homeownership and legislative action. Laukka was also involved with several public/private initiatives. During the 1960s, he helped guide the redevelopment of a portion of north Minneapolis through the Near Northside Redevelopment Agency, which sought to help revitalize that part of the city by building market-rate, single-family housing in some called a “suburb in the city.” He helped develop the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and he chaired the Minnesota State Housing Code Advisory Board. Most recently, he served on the Fairview Southdale Hospital board of trustees and chaired the development of its new Carl N. Platou Emergency Center, which opened in August.
Laukka took a break from retirement to share his thoughts about how the industry has changed.
Q: Any highlights from your career?
A: Bringing my alma mater’s alumni center (the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center) into being was one of the most challenging and rewarding development exercises. From a real estate perspective, the large-scale mixed use developments in Edina (Edinborough and Centennial Lakes) will stand tall as all-time great developments.
Q: You’ve watched development trends come and go, what’s the next big trend? A: The density trend has been underway for some time now; it took some of the first 30 years of my career to see the suburbs coming around to densities that better served the economics of the home buyer and his/her lifestyles. We are seeing more and more smart/chic developments happening as densities increase and there will be more to come.
Q: Based on your experience with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, should the state get more involved in the market?
A: The state best serves long-term interests, preparing an environment where industry and job creation can flourish and an educational system which induces smart growth of individuals. The agency has done what it was set out to do — within its financial limits. There are many instances where it has been successful … it should do more of the same, but we fail if we expect the state to overcome the big issues related to housing just by making more and more capital available. Growing a population that can afford and enjoy the standards established by all levels of our governments is a good place to invest.