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Small spaces are big business for rehabber

Burl Gilyard
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — There’s precious little office development under way across the Twin Cities today. The sound of crickets chirping is more prevalent than construction site clamor.

But the St. Paul-based Update Co. is working on a small redevelopment project in its own backyard.

The company bought the vintage building at 700 Raymond Ave. last spring and is rehabbing it to offer about 20,000 square feet of office and “creative loft” space. Sandy Jacobs, one of the Update Co. partners, said the goal is to have the building ready for occupancy next spring.

“A lot of people really like the feel of older buildings with some character to them. They don’t make buildings like they used to,” said Jacobs. The property at 700 Raymond was built of brick and offers iron beams in the rafters.

Jacobs said the building dates to around 1915 and was once a foundry and the longtime home of the National Mower Co.

The family-owned Update Co. specializes in overhauling older buildings.

Jacobs said her firm caters mainly to smaller tenants seeking spaces of 5,000 square feet or less, particularly nonprofit organizations.

“That’s been a big part of our business. We also have a lot of startup business,” Jacobs said, adding that arts organizations are another core group of tenants.

Jacobs points to plans for the Central Corridor light rail transit line and other neighborhood development such as the under-construction apartment project, The Lyric at Carleton Place. The 171-unit apartment building is scheduled to open next spring.

“Our little corner of the world is really starting to take off,” Jacobs said. “A lot of people probably wouldn’t start a project right now … we just think it’s the time to keep growing.”

Update Co. owns eight commercial properties, including 700 Raymond, offering about 350,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.

“Usually, we have a pretty high occupancy rate, about 95 percent. This year we’re down like everybody else,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs’ parents founded the company in the 1970s. Today, she and her siblings, Jack McCann, Jim McCann and Lynn Young are partners in the company.

“We each have our own things that we’re good at,” Jacobs said.

Despite some of the controversy and debate swirling around light rail development, Jacobs sees LRT as a plus for her neighborhood.

“I think once they get a few more of these details ironed out, there’s just a lot of development potential up and down University Avenue,” Jacobs said. “After construction is over, I think we’ll all be happy with it.”

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