Kelly Doran, one busy developer-builder since the 2008-09 recession, breaks ground Monday on “The Moline” in Hopkins.

The 241-unit luxury apartment project, about a $50 million deal from acquisition through construction, will be built on the site of a former, 1960s-vintage warehouse/office development, at Eighth Street and Excelsior Boulevard. It’s adjacent to the former Minneapolis Moline tractor plant.

It’s a play for increased housing density in the growing loop area of a small town-turned-suburb that once had train service to Minneapolis.

It also plays on the controversial Southwest Light Rail Transit line (LRT). It may die if the Minnesota Legislature does not appropriate $135 million this month to qualify for $895 million in federal matching funds for the 14.5-mile line from downtown to Eden Prairie, at a hefty price of $1.8 billion.

“I like Hopkins…and I probably would have done this project anyway,” Doran said last week. “But LRT would be a huge positive contributor. And this project alone will generate four times the property taxes [of the previous structures].

“I’m also buying the Calhoun Village Shopping center on Lake Street, in Minneapolis … because it’s near the LRT route. I think LRT will be heavily used and create a lot of development. I hope the politicians are smart enough to fund it. The ripple effects will be huge.”

Doran, who estimates that he’s worked on $1 billion worth of projects since 2009, mostly around the University of Minnesota and downtown, is focused lately on a $90 million residential project in Brooklyn Park and a $150 million, phased-over-years development in Maple Grove.

The Hopkins Moline project will include a 4,000 square foot exhibit of restored Moline farm tractors.

Doran, a 35-year veteran, was the first private developer to launch a significant project in early 2009 when he got financed for the renovation of the "Dinky Dome" office-reail complex and student housing near Dinkytown at the UofM.

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