In May, Thor Construction CEO Ravi Norman and two colleagues announced a plan to help fill a gaping hole in the Twin Cities housing market.

They formed a Fridley-based company called Sm+RT Homes, which recently said that it had brokered a deal with the city to install factory-built houses on vacant lots on the city’s North Side. The area had been hardest hit by the predatory lending and foreclosure crisis and was littered with hundreds of difficult-to-sell lots.

The company worked with Dynamic Homes in Detroit Lakes to develop a series of bungalow-style houses that can be built within 45 to 60 days and at a significantly lower cost than a comparable-quality, site-built house. The houses will be priced from $180,000 to $250,000, depending on amenities and finishes, and can be ready for occupancy just weeks after delivery.

At the end of last month flatbed trucks from Detroit Lakes arrived at a vacant lot at 4309 Irving Av. N. in Minneapolis carrying the ready-to-be-assembled first Sm+RT house. A large construction crane lifted the two main sections of the house off the flat bed and workers guided them into place. The 1,800-square-foot, one-story bungalow will be finished and ready for use as a model Sm+RT home by the end of July.

A representative for the company said that in addition to the houses being built on the North Side, there’s potential to build more than 200 housing units on vacant lots scattered throughout the city, and that interest in the homes has been strong. Interested parties can call Gary Findell or Anderson Mitchell at 763-571-5319.

Not far from the house on Irving Avenue, a division of Twin Cities-based Alatus recently started building single-family houses that sell for $300,000 and up in the Parkside at Humboldt Greenway project. Lower land costs make those houses less expensive than comparable houses in nearby suburbs. Interest has been strong, according to the team that’s marketing the project.

The broader area has been the focus of intense revitalization efforts and starting this weekend will get a little extra love. Habitat for Humanity said that it was hosting the Week of Kindness in the Jordan neighborhood along Knox Avenue N. between 29th Street and Lowry Avenue where crews will spend seven days doing home repairs and planting the boulevards.

In addition to repairing and painting several homes, there will also be a block cleanup, a resources fair and a community celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. on July 16.

The Jordan Area Community Council and Thrivent Financial are partnering on the project.


Evantage joins stable at Treehouse Health

Treehouse Health, the medical-technology accelerator with the cool loft office in Minneapolis’ Loring Park, has a new partner to help it help start-up companies. Evantage Consulting, the North Loop business consulting firm with a roster of blue chip clients, in May agreed to become a service provider partner for Treehouse.

It joins several local law firms and advisers in real estate and accounting that also help start-ups at Treehouse. The accelerator’s chief advisers are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Hennepin County Medical Center.

The move was a natural, says Rachael Marret, Evantage’s managing director, because about two out of three of its clients are health technology firms. “This gives our consultants an opportunity to work with entrepreneurs who are pushing the boundaries in the industry,” she said.

She said Evantage also sees the relationship as a chance to build long-term relationships. “It’s generally a different engagement, a different pace,” she said. “These companies are on more of an accelerated track trying to establish their business fundamentals.”

Treehouse has invested in 12 firms since its start in 2013. The latest is Reemo, which is developing software for senior citizens who have mobility impairments to control thermostats and other devices from smartwatches.



Jim Buchta is a Star Tribune staff writer. Reach him at 612-673-7376.