Inside Track Logo


Inside Track

A look at what’s behind today's Minnesota business headlines.

Boutique hotel opens in former Summit Avenue mansion in St. Paul

Courtesy The Davidson

Developer John Rupp lives just a few doors from his latest restoration project, a new boutique hotel called the Davidson Hotel that he created in a century-old mansion on Summit Avenue.

The Davidson sits on a double lot at 344 Summit Avenue in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and features eight, stately suites. The hotel is the first boutique hotel to open on Summit Avenue.

“I am very familiar with this building, and I thought it was one of the finest if not the finest mansions that was built in St. Paul during that period before WWII,” Rupp said.

The Davidson opened in December.

Watson P. Davidson, an entrepreneur and developer who worked in real estate for the Great Northern Railway, and his wife Sarah had the 18,000-square-foot Tudor-manor-style house built in 1915. Davidson had wanted to build “the finest house that had ever been built in the city,” Rupp said. Local architect Thomas Holyoke designed the home.

Davidson lived in the house until his death in 1954, and his family later sold the house. Beginning in 1961, the building housed the operations of the College of Visual Arts. When Rupp’s Commonwealth Properties bought it in 2013, most of the internal details had already been stripped by the college, Rupp said.

“The biggest part of the project was not converting it from a mansion to a hotel it was putting the mansion back together,” he said.

A lot of woodwork needed to be reproduced, doors fabricated, custom chandeliers and doorknobs sourced and lot of things had to be custom made, Rupp said. Rupp declined to give an estimate for the multiyear renovation, but he said the mansion could serve as a single-family house in the future.

Each suite is individually furnished and some rooms feature views of the Mississippi River valley.

The hotel provides guests with breakfast vouchers for use at nearby Bon Vie Cafe. Guests are also provided with a free drink at two other Rupp properties that are close by, W.A. Frost & Company and the Commodore Bar and Restaurant. Commonwealth also extends membership privileges to guests to some of its other nearby properties the University Club of St. Paul for dining and use of the athletic facilities and the Saint Paul Athletic Club in downtown St. Paul.

Minnesota hemp industry joins ag officials in protesting hemp rules

A hemp field near Hastings in 2016

The Minnesota hemp industry has joined the state agriculture department in protesting proposed federal rules they say would be a huge step backward for the emerging agri-business trade.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hemp Association CEO Joe Radinovich said the rules threatened a job-and-income producing industry in rural Minnesota of hundreds of licensed hemp growers who cultivate 8000-plus acres because they undercut Minnesota regulations and threaten roughly 80% of the Minnesota harvest.

The proposed rules will make it more difficult to grow plants that are primarily grown for fiber, grain and cannabinoid-extraction purposes, according to a summary of the letter. They will also make it more difficult to see the development of large scale grain and fiber operations…”

State hemp inspectors sample and test fields for levels of THC, or “tetrahydrocannabinol,’’ within 30 days of harvest. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes people high. Hemp is marijuana’s nonintoxicating cousin and legally cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.

Radinovich argues the proposed rules will hurt states such as Minnesota that have yet to legalize recreational marijuana.  

“Where the USDA interim rules could have been a step forward to setting the rules for this industry for years to come, they instead exacerbate the uneven treatment of the cannabis plant across the country and will likely be subject to extensive revision in the future as this public debate moves forward,” he said. 

Minnesota agriculture officials has  raised alarms over new federal rules, since the 2018 enabling legislation, warning that the regulations would spread the state agency thin and punish farmers for even the slightest errors.

The interim hemp rules adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October are “unworkable,” state agriculture commissioner Thom Petersen wrote the USDA earlier this month.