Shea Firm walking its talk on Hennepin Avenue

Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
Star Tribune Updated: October 29, 2011 – 1:58 PM

Architect David Shea, who has had a say in the commercial revitalization of Hennepin Avenue, is walking the talk.

Shea, owner of the 33-year-old Shea Inc. architectural, design and marketing firm that bears his name, has signed a 10-year lease with the owner of the “Shinders” building at Eighth Street and Hennepin Avenue that has been vacant since the magazine peddler closed in 2007.

Shea also will direct a $3 million overhaul of the iconic, 24,000-square-foot, two-level structure that will include a restaurant that may feature a glass, gabled roof that can be retracted during good weather.

“After helping to position so many of our clients [on Hennepin], we’re really excited to put ourselves in the mix,” Shea said. “We have a lot emotionally invested in the core of downtown.” Shea’s firm has been in nearby Butler Square for 20 years.

Shea said: “We want street-level access and for the first floor to be a living art project, an animated store front so that it will add to the vibrancy and vitality of Hennepin. Not just a darkened store at night. This gives us an opportunity to do what you can’t do from the sixth floor of an office building. Reach out to the public.”

The building will house Shea’s offices on the second floor and a restaurant tenant on the lower level, first floor and rooftop. Welsh Construction will commence work in early 2012 and Shea plans to move in by July.

The Shea firm’s work on Hennepin spans the Chambers Hotel, Solera, Crave, Hennepin Theater Trust, LaSalle Plaza, Seven, pending plans for Block E, Fogo de Chao and Rosa Mexicano restaurants, as well as a Lunds store planned for 12th Street and Hennepin.

The former Shinders building was constructed in 1947 for Snyder Drug. The “Snyder” name, inscribed in the terrazzo floor on the first level, will be preserved. Most of the rest of the interior and exterior will be overhauled.

The building is majority-owned by Dr. Al and Sue Zelickson, a member of the Snyder family that founded the drugstore chain. Shea and the Zelicksons are longtime friends and project collaborators.

Shea Inc. employs 30 and posts revenue of about $5 million from projects locally and around the country.

A long look at retailers

Independent retailers in Hennepin County saw their share of retail sales drop from 62 percent to 43 percent between 1990 and 2009, one of the biggest drops among 15 metropolitan areas, according to a study commissioned by American Express. The trend was heightened by the opening of the Mall of America in 1992, according to the American Express study. During the same period, independent restaurants and bars in Minneapolis saw their percent of the market decline from 66 percent to 61 percent.

But the study also points to the transformation of Uptown and around Lyndale Avenue S. and Lake Street as evidence of how an independent-led business district drives economic development. Uptown and Lyn-Lake developments have created hundreds of new jobs, in addition to ongoing construction jobs, the study said.

Larry Ludeman, a real estate professional and co-president of the Lyn-Lake Business Association, said he doesn’t buy the study’s suggestion that the surging commercial development at the once-flagging Lyndale-and-Lake hub drove residential property values higher than the overall market.

“I would describe the relationship between the independent businesses in Lyn-Lake and the residential community as a ‘hand-in-glove’ relationship,” Ludeman said. “Success for one breeds success for the other.”

The executive summary of the study, which American Express commissioned in advance of “Small Business Saturday” on Nov. 26, is at:

NOG gets new

Wayzata-based Northern Oil and Gas (ticker: NOG), which was dogged earlier this year by accusations of executive conflicts amid a tumble in its stock price, has hired a new general counsel. The move is seen as an attempt by CEO Michael Reger to shore up corporate reporting and governance.

Erik Romslo joins Northern from the Faegre & Benson firm, where he focused on SEC reporting and regulatory compliance. James Sankovitz, who was Northern’s inside lawyer and chief operating officer, will drop the general counsel role.

Reger, who has acknowledged issues to shareholders, said Romslo “will help us as we continue to strengthen our corporate governance and internal controls.”