Doug Hoskin has a lot of shovels in the ground. He planned to close on the purchase of the Suburban World theater in south Minneapolis on Friday with visions of converting the local landmark into an event hall and concert venue. Construction is underway at the apartment complex and parking ramp he is developing with partners next to the Thrivent Financial building in downtown. Hoskin’s group is also working on ideas for how to re-imagine Century Plaza, which was formerly owned by Hennepin County. Hoskin continues to work as a principal for Interstate Parking, which operates 9,700 parking spaces in the Twin Cities.
Q: What attracted you to the Suburban World theater? It’s been empty for more than five years.
A: The building itself just has some beautiful architecture to it. It’s just that historical aspect to it that intrigues me. Also the location of being in Uptown. … I noticed it many times and finally thought “I wonder what’s going on with it?” and then explored that and got involved with conversations with the owner, and ultimately we came to an agreement on price, so we are moving forward. … I never had been in the building before. My partner in the project, AJ Reher, she had been familiar with the building. I was redoing the Minneapolis Armory as a large event, music venue and that project got a little bit too risky for me. But again it was taking in a historic building that was used for public uses and bringing that back to that. Suburban World is the exact same thing, it’s just on a much smaller scale. This is a bit of a passion that I’ve had for some time now.
Q: What would you like to do with Century Plaza? You bought that at the end of last year.
A: We are working with several different plans right now for housing. We are looking at either low-income housing or low-income senior housing. We are laying out various plans to get our unit counts. If we are doing just regular low-income housing, those units are totally different from if we are doing senior low-income housing. ... It is pretty evident that low-income housing certainly in the downtown area has been really difficult to do. It’s a city goal, and we think the property lays out well for low-income housing.
Q: A lot of surface parking lots in Minneapolis are being redeveloped. Do you foresee this trend causing any parking issues in the city?
A: I think there are areas in the downtown market that are certainly underparked, particularly in the North Loop area, and obviously the core is pretty well developed. You are not going to be adding anything more there. The loss of public parking spaces over the course of the last five years is probably somewhere in the area of 4,000 spaces. … If you look around downtown, there are not a lot of surface parking lots left compared to where we were 15 years ago.
Q: As some cities like Minneapolis are pushing transit or redevelopment of parking lots, has that made it harder for Interstate Parking to grow its portfolio?
A: We have sold a parcel or others have sold parcels because the value of development is greater than that of the value of parking. To that extent, yes, it makes it a little bit more challenging. However, at the same time we continue to grow in terms of our presence in the Twin Cities area. It is difficult to find parking facilities that are available for sale. When it comes down to it, it’s a very, very small niche market. The larger-scale commercial investment community has gotten more interested in parking facilities in the last 10 years than they had previously. Some of this has to do with the fact that cities are trying to reduce the amount of parking and/or the amount of parking that you can develop and push for more public transit corridors and opportunities and biking. … On the other side of it is as the result of implementing community strategies to reduce parking, it’s also caused the price of parking to increase. When it comes down to it, parking is the quintessential look at economics 101 supply and demand. … On a broad look of downtown Minneapolis on a long-term basis, I do have a concern that if we squeeze parking too much downtown we could lose one of our large employers. I don’t want to be negative on the city by any means. But the practical nature is not everybody can take public transit or bike or live downtown and can walk to their jobs.
Q: And you are also in the baking business as well?
A: I am a partner in Hans’ Bakery. A friend by the name of Kelly Olsen came across Hans’ Bakery for sale in Anoka and called me up and she said, “Doug, how would you like to get into the bakery business?” and I said, “Sure, why not.” So we redeveloped the location, opened it up. Since, we have opened another location in Blaine. Now we are looking at other locations including downtown Minneapolis.
Q: What’s your strategy for future investments?
A: I’ve been doing parking since 1982. I like commercial parking. It’s interesting. It’s very public. You meet wonderful, wonderful people day in and day out. It’s energizing. I will continue to do that. These other opportunities like the bakery or like Suburban World as they present themselves, and if it feels right, I’ll certainly move forward with them, but they don’t have to be things I’m always out actively looking for.