Michael Lander founder and president of the Lander Group

After abandoning aspirations to be a professional golfer, Michael Lander found another passion during college: real estate.

At 23, Lander's first project was building a "floating house" in Sausalito, Calif., a city in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the 1970s, Lander said Sausalito was like a small Italian village with narrow roads lined with cafes and shops. It was here that he first discovered a love for community planning and creating pedestrian-friendly, thriving urban spaces.

That was nearly 40 years ago, and Lander has been an advocate ever since for a design and architectural movement now known as New Urbanism. He is founder and president of the Lander Group, a Minneapolis-based development firm specializing in urban infill projects, which has designed and developed $100 million in infill residential and mixed-use projects.

Current projects include his first in the suburbs — a mixed-use development called BoatWorks Commons in White Bear Lake.

Q: Which projects stand out for you?

A: The most prominent one is 301 Kenwood Condos, which is right on the edge of the Walker Sculpture Garden. When I got the opportunity to build there, I thought, 'Boy, I better do this right, because if I don't, I'm going to have to move out of town because it's such a prominent spot.' But I'm very proud of that project. And we did Wacouta Commons in downtown St. Paul, which is about 500 units and a park in the center. We created a whole neighborhood on what was all parking lots.

Q: You're developing in the suburbs for the first time.

A: We're very committed to the principles of New Urbanism, which are building where people don't have to have a car as their only means of getting around. So we like to build in places where you can walk, bike, bus or there's other public transit. One reason we're not in the suburbs, typically, is it's very hard to find a site that meets those requirements. This site in White Bear Lake has bus service, walking and biking into the downtown, and a Kowalski's next door. It's as good a multimodal site as I could find in the suburbs and it's on the lake. So that got me out of the city.

Q: How does it feel to have urban redevelopment becoming so popular as more people choose urban living?

A: Since it's what I've believed in, it's obviously very satisfying to have the market come, and plus it's just made it more feasible to do projects. Had the market never changed, I would have had a career I was very happy with and $2 to show for it. So it's nice that the market has changed.

Liz Wolf is an Eagan-based freelance writer. She can be reached at wolfliz99@aol.com.