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Condo developer sees potential for major project in Tower

Model City?

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 1/13/16

TOWER— Officials with the city’s economic development authority have reached a tentative understanding with Nordic Business Development, Inc. that could clear the way for town home construction …

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Condo developer sees potential for major project in Tower

Model City?


TOWER— Officials with the city’s economic development authority have reached a tentative understanding with Nordic Business Development, Inc. that could clear the way for town home construction near Tower’s new harbor, and more.

The company had responded to the city’s Request for Qualifications for design and construction services in November, but quickly followed up with a broader proposal. Under a Memorandum of Understanding proposed by the company last month, NBDI CEO Orlyn Kringstad suggested a joint development agreement that would provide a number of services to the city, including developing a “high-level” strategy for promoting Tower as a model for rural sustainability. The company would also develop marketing documents, including floor plans, finishes and pricing, necessary to attract buyers to the condominium project.

The company is also interested in future development in the city, including on Main Street as well as possible residential developments, and would like to assist the city in developing an overall master plan, which they call the Tower 2025 Vision Plan, that would encompass sustainability guidelines and provide consistency as future development proceeds. City officials were lukewarm on that part of NBDI’s proposal, but Kringstad and others on his team emphasized the value of such a planning effort at a harbor committee meeting on Tuesday. Kringstad said there’s strong interest in sustainability as a concept and that the city is in a good position to become a model community as it begins to chart its redevelopment. “We think people are going to want to be a part of that,” he said.

For now, however, both parties agreed that construction of town homes at the harbor should be the first priority. The two sides will meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 19, in hopes of finalizing the details of their working arrangement.

During discussions this week, it was clear that city officials preferred to have NBDI take on the role of project developer, including handling financing for the project. NBDI officials didn’t reject that idea, but seemed to prefer a model that would keep the Tower Economic Development Authority as a player in the funding package, with the company having the option to buy out TEDA at a certain point.

Both parties expressed the need to move quickly, and Kringstad said he’s eager to move forward with the marketing of the townhomes. Under the current plan, NBDI would undertake the marketing in order to obtain a sufficient number of pre-sales in order to gain financial backing from a lender.

“I have a high degree of confidence that there will be interest in this project,” he said. “I’ve talked to a number of people already who are highly intrigued, both as purchasers and investors,” he said.

Company background

Nordic Business Development, Inc., is headed by Orlyn Kringstad, who recently moved to Tower. He first learned of the harbor project last year and grew increasingly interested in the opportunities it represented. Kringstad brings an extensive background in leadership, managing change, and building relationships. He is a former Executive Leadership Fellow with the Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota, and is the current Executive Director of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights— U.S. Foundation. He was also, until recently, executive director of the U.S. branch of the Partnership for Change, an Oslo-based organization working on sustainable development and addressing climate change globally.

Joining Kringstad in the project are several other team members, including Jeremy Schoenfelder, founder and manager of Sienna Partners, a consulting firm working with real estate businesses, and Dewey Thorbeck, of Thorbeck Architects, based in Mendota Heights. Both Schoenfelder and Thorbeck took part in Tuesday’s meeting via phone conference.

Thorbeck has been involved in a number of projects, including the International Wolf Center, and the Bell Museum of Natural History. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Rural Design at the University of Minnesota.

In his initial response to the city’s RFQ, Kringstad made it clear he sees the harbor-related development as a first phase in a much larger vision. Kringstad said his team believes “that this proposal brings a fresh new look at the opportunity to connect the Historic Harbor Development District to the city of Tower and surrounding region, including Soudan and neighboring townships, to create a realistic and economical vision that is holistic and systemic for Tower to become a worldwide model of rural sustainability in the 21st century.”

Kringstad wants the city to establish a citizen-based steering committee to oversee the development of the sustainability plan. NBDI team member Terje Kristensen, a native of Norway, would assist in that planning effort. Kristensen, who holds a Ph.D. in ecology and environmental studies, was a 2008-09 Fulbright Scholar who conducted his graduate work at the University of Minnesota.


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